The Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement after three people were killed and five wounded in a shooting stretching from the south side of Chicago to Evanston.
“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this horrible shooting and by the scourge of gun violence that has plagued Chicago for far too long,” said Valerie Burgest, a volunteer with the Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “We’ll honor their lives with our continued efforts to end gun violence and support violence intervention groups doing lifesaving work on the ground, because we shouldn’t have to live like this.”
The shooting comes as gun violence has continued to devastate Chicago. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, so far this weekend, five people have been killed and 21 have been wounded by gun violence. See below for more on the nexus between gun violence and the pandemic, and for steps lawmakers and officials can take to address it.
1) The pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, in Chicago and across the country.
- Lack of access to opportunity is a key driver of gun violence, and the pandemic has brought an economic crisis. The economic fallout has also disproportionately affected communities where decades of policy decisions have created conditions that contribute to gun violence. “To put it bluntly,” Michael-Sean Spence, Everytown’s community safety initiatives director, wrote in Newsweek, “underinvestment in Black and Latino neighborhoods has created the environments in which public health epidemics thrive.”
2) The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the work of local gun violence intervention programs.
- Many local gun violence intervention programs — which have seen success in preventing daily gun violence in cities — have experienced unprecedented challenges in their work, including strained funding, social distancing measures which have impacted interpersonal conflicts, causing them to occur more frequently and escalate more quickly via online communication, and an expansion of their mission to include preventing the spread of the virus.
3) Local leaders should continue to invest in — and reporters should seek out for insight — community-led violence intervention programs that save lives.Live Free Illinois, a Chicago-based gun violence intervention group, works to prevent gun violence through intervention and advocacy. They have continued their outreach work during the pandemic. As they adapt to new conditions, they’ve also added spreading public awareness about the virus to their life-saving strategies. And People for a Safer Society raises awareness on gun violence and facilitates education, awareness and advocacy that can make a difference on local, state, and federal levels
4) State officials can tap into existing funding to help.
- In addition to increasing dedicated state funding for gun violence prevention and services for survivors of gun violence, state agencies should utilize federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance funding to support local organizations serving survivors of gun violence and their communities.
In an average year, more than 1,350 people die by guns in Illinois. More information about gun violence in Illinois is available through EveryStat here.