CHICAGO — Aline Stern of Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood struggled to send her two children to school on Wednesday, the morning after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at a Texas elementary school, killing 19 children and two adults.
She also felt a frightening tension in many other parents at the time of the filing.
“I think we were all scared,” she said. “We squeezed them all a little tighter. School is meant to be a safe haven for children. Not a place where you are afraid.
Chicago-area parents, teachers and politicians spent Wednesday mourning the loss of life in Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as well as fighting back against the crisis of armed violence in the country.
Meanwhile, politicians again traded barbs over Chicago’s violence, with Republicans repeating the refrain of using the city as a political punching bag to suggest that tougher gun controls will do nothing to slow the seemingly endless grief caused by the mass shootings. The city was rocked last weekend by a downtown shooting that left two dead and seven injured.
Texas politicians responded to calls for more gun control laws by pointing the finger at Chicago. When the mayor of Uvalde Don McLaughlin Asked if he would accept requirements such as a license to own a firearm, he said a license would not have changed the fatal outcome in his town.
“Look at Chicago,” McLaughlin said. “You can’t even buy a gun in the city of Chicago, but there are shootings every weekend.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also pointed to gun violence in other cities with stricter regulations, including Chicago.
“I hate to say it, but there are more people getting shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” Abbott said, according to CNN. “So you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot bristled at Abbott’s comments during a press conference on Wednesday.
“Well, there’s probably nothing nice I can say about the governor of Texas,” she said. “He’s a man who is determined to be a race to the bottom. He’s obviously trying to restore his image for what was probably a race for president. And he’s doing it, frankly, at the expense of the people of this state. … It’s an old Republican trope to try to put a city like Chicago in their mouths and criticize us, but the thing is, this guy has to focus on his business there.
She added: “It’s not personal between the two of us. I don’t know this guy. And frankly, I don’t want to know the guy. What I’ve seen him do is a race to the bottom to try and outplay his competitors and what he thinks will make his candidacy shine). I think people across the country can see through that. … I will defend my city against the attacks of someone who is a clown like Governor Abbott of Texas, who lies about our city.
Governor JB Pritzker responded on Twitter saying “shame on you” to the governor of Texas, by publishing a news article showing that most firearms used in Chicago crimes originated outside of Illinois.
“You lie about Chicago and what perpetuates gun violence,” Pritzker said. “The majority of firearms used in the Chicago shootings come from states with lax gun laws. Do better. You have 19 kids and two teachers who deserve our best.
Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly called Chicago the same, prompting reactions from city leaders.
Days before the elementary school massacre in Texas, a white gunman in a body armor shot dead 10 black victims at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Authorities described the crime as “racially motivated violent extremism.”
In mid-May, a gunman opened fire on a Taiwanese church in California, after he chained the door and hid firebombs inside. One person was killed and five others injured in the attack, which authorities said was motivated by political hatred towards Taiwan.
Stern said she believed ‘something can be done, but not at our level’, adding that politicians could act to enact more gun control measures and reduce violence, but they are unwilling. to do it.
“I feel very helpless as a parent,” she said. “I feel like I can’t do anything.”
Researchers and experts have criticized politicians for casually citing Chicago to push back against the assumption that certain gun laws and restrictions may contribute to a reduction in gun deaths and injuries.
Experts have pointed out that Texas and Illinois have almost the same gun deaths, with one expert noting that the death rate in Texas is even slightly higher.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2020, more people died by firearm in Texas than in Illinois, when suicides and accidental shootings are included, said Cassandra Crifasi, researcher and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
“The rate of all gun deaths in Texas is higher than the gun death rate in Illinois,” Crifasi said.
Crifasi said Illinois had more homicides, but there were more suicides in Texas.
“The common trope is that places like Baltimore or Detroit or Chicago are why we have so many gun deaths in this country,” she said. “And yes, those places … have unacceptable rates of gun homicides. But the places with the highest gun death rates are not Maryland, Michigan and Illinois. These include Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Alabama.The places with weaker gun laws have higher death rates.
The availability of firearms used in Chicago crime is directly affected by the laws of neighboring states, which means the ability to smuggle guns out of Indiana or Wisconsin contributes to the violence. According to a 2017 report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, up to 60% of firearms recovered came from out of state.
“Chicago is affected by the laws and policies of the rest of the continental United States,” said Roseanna Ander, director of the Crime Lab. “Especially those closest to us. You can be in Chicago and be closer to Indiana than the Loop.
Crifasi added that “states with strong gun laws are at the mercy of states with weaker gun laws.”
The Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, on Wednesday called on Congress to pass “common sense” gun laws, as well as strengthen mental health services in schools. schools and surrounding communities.
“We are faced with another tragedy – an almost unbearable and oft-repeated incident of children boarding a bus, going to school, and hanging their backpacks on a hook in a classroom, never to get out,” the union said in a press release. “It’s time to stop watching these tragedies and start doing something. We ask our leaders to come together. This is not a partisan issue. It’s not about gun rights. It’s about allowing children to go to school and being safe, allowing families of color to go to the grocery store in the middle of the day and not being targets of violence, and to help all of America not live in fear.”
The Joliet Police Department announced Wednesday that it will have an increased police presence at all schools in Joliet through the end of the school year, in response to the Texas school shooting.
School districts in Ohio, Nevada, Connecticut and other states across the country have also stepped up security and police officers at schools in the wake of the tragedy.
New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin has increased law enforcement presence in schools across the state “effective immediately,” according to a news release.
“Our students, their families and caregivers, teachers and school administrators need to feel safe at school and be assured that New Jersey law enforcement will do everything in their power to protect them,” says the Press release.
In the western suburb of St. Charles, a retired elementary school art teacher said news of the Texas shooting “felt like a bolt of electricity going through me.”
As she gazed at the gruesome images and media reports, Lynette Niequist couldn’t help but think of the faces of all the children she had taught for over two decades.
“It immediately reminded me of countless active shooter lockdown drills where I might have a class full of scared K-5 kids jostling for space in my art supply room. while trying to stay (as) quiet as possible,” she said.
Niequist recalled that during one such drill, a little girl said she probably shouldn’t wear her shoes with a neon-light sole because the flashing lights could reveal her hiding place to a potential shooter.
“For a kid to think that, it’s just heartbreaking,” Niequist said. “For her to have to think about being the target of a shooter at that age, what a reality.”
She added that the scale and horror of gun violence can seem overwhelming and “almost painful to watch as well”.
“But we have to look into it,” she said. “We can’t look away.”
(Alice Yin and Tracy Swartz of the Chicago Tribune contributed.)
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