In the wake of a wave of violence that led to 11 deaths and at least 70 injuries over the Fourth of July weekend, some Chicago lawmakers believe it is time to call in the National Guard to patrol the city’s streets and subdue violence. With more than 200 murders during the first half of 2013, the ongoing violence has sparked new conversations about the best way to deal with the problem.
Leading the charge is state Rep. Monique Davis, a Democrat who has asked Gov. Pat Quinn to deploy the National Guard and the state police force on Chicago streets.
“It’s almost as if there’s a war going on. It seems like it is genocide, and those officials who can do something about it have chosen not to do anything about it. I’m calling for the National Guard to come to Chicago and ride up and down these streets,” Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Davis’ concern can be put in perspective by comparing Chicago’s murder rate with U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan. Using Department of Defense and FBI data, WBEZ reports that more than 2,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, compared with roughly 5,000 Chicago residents killed over the same period. The majority of those individuals were killed by a perpetrator using a firearm.
Rep. Mary Flowers, another Democrat from Chicago, disagrees with Davis’ plan but hopes that the governor will respond with a different plan.
“I happen to disagree with calling in the state police and the National Guard,” Flowers said, “but what I do agree with is that the governor needs to do something. We must be respected in our community. We must have jobs in our community.”
Quinn has not responded to requests for National Guard troops, but he has overseen a change in gun policy. Last week, Illinois lifted a prohibition against carrying concealed firearms in the state. State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond told the Associated Press that police expect 300,000 applications for concealed-carry permits in the first year.
The change has been welcomed by some citizens as a way to protect themselves. State Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat, said residents “finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
“If the governor wants to get serious about crime, let’s find out about all the shootings going on in Chicago,” Phelps told the Sun-Times. “They’ve got the strictest gun laws in the nation, but they still lead in shootings and murders.”
For some, neither guns nor the National Guard will be enough to solve conditions of poverty and urban blight, considered to be the root of the city’s crime woes.
Former gang member Benny Lee believes that conditions of urban poverty are the root problem that need to be addressed in order to end violence. Lee turned away from a life of crime with the Vice Lords gang and now works with community organization in Chicago trying to help young people stay away from crime.
“During wartime a lot is taken from the poor community — jobs, frustration, overcrowdedness, all those kind of conditions cause people to get antsy, angry, aggravated. So until those conditions are quelled, maybe on the government or city level, you will always have violence. Those conditions caused that. People don’t just up and become violent,” Lee said in a WBEZ interview last year.
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