With urban crime nationwide undergoing a decade-long decline, Chicago sticks out like a sore thumb with its record homicides and rising crime rates over the past few years. The chaos in Chicago is particularly troubling given that Chicago is the home base of President Obama, and elected a mayor that was essentially hand-picked by the Obama administration.
The President has been outspoken about other national tragedies, including the Sandy Hook elementary mass killing and the Trayvon Martin case. So have other black leaders such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and National of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. But up until the last February, the President had been curiously silent about the epidemic of crime and violence plaguing his own back yard. Some believe his hand was forced by the publicity surrounding shooting death of teen Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago less than a week after she performed as a majorette cheerleader at the President’s second inauguration. When the President finally addressed the people of Chicago last winter he used the opportunity to champion his flailing gun control legislation – with a rhetorical call for the parents of gun violence to have a vote on the Congressional committees considering the new laws. Chicago already had some of the most draconian gun laws in the country, and the national legislation pushed by the president to regulate the sale and ownership of assault weapons would do relatively little to curb gun violence in Chicago, where over 90 percent of the homicides and other crimes involving a gun are committed with unlicensed handguns – not assault rifles.
The President also made a point of noting that the gun control alone would not be a solution to Chicago’s escalating crime rates. He was merely stating the obvious of course. Homicides in Los Angeles and New York, cities of roughly similar size to Chicago have been falling steadily and are near decade-long lows. He began to mention the responsibilities of families and communities to use their own resources to stem the violence. He pointed to endemic problems such as unemployment and lack of male role models as causal factors which the community needed to address within itself. It bears mentioning that these problems are not unique to Chicago either.