CHICAGO – The number of shooting deaths here has surpassed the total for last year with four months still to go, in a bloody 2016 in which Chicago has outpaced most major U.S. cities in homicides.
Police are stepping up efforts to confiscate illegal firearms from the streets, and the state recently passed a law toughening penalties for gun trafficking, but the moves so far seem to be having little effect, with this August shaping up to be the most violent in almost two decades.
By Wednesday morning, 425 people had been fatally shot so far this year in Chicago—accounting for 91% of the total murders in the city. In all of 2015, 424 people were killed by gun shots, with a total of 493 homicides. By the end of the year, gun-related deaths are set to reach highs not seen since the early 2000s.
“This is a national emergency,” said Eric Russell, a community activist from the Tree of Life Justice League, a Chicago-based group which helps to fight gun violence, referring to this past month’s violence as “total carnage.”
Chicago police said the staggering number of violent crimes here underscores the urgency of getting illegal guns off the street and toughening penalties for using a firearm in commission of a crime.
“The violence we are seeing is being committed by repeat offenders who do not fear the consequences of their actions, because too frequently they are not held accountable by the rest of the criminal justice system,” said police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, calling for legislation to “send a clear message that if you bring violence into our communities, you will be held fully accountable.”
Last week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation raising the maximum sentence for bringing guns illegally into the state to 30 years.