What you can do now to help Chicago’s gun problems

It’s almost too repetitive to say that Chicago has a gun problem. Too obvious to say something needs to change as the numbers climb with 141 murders and 800 shooting victims in just the first three months of this year.

There is no single answer to Chicago’s gun problem. One issue didn’t cause this problem and one solution will not fix it.

But all of us have something to lose in this fight. If you are sick and tired of reading, talking, watching, posting and tweeting about gun violence in our city and want to really do something about it, you can.

Change your perception

He must’ve been into drugs. She shouldn’t have been out that late. He was definitely in a gang. Oh, it was on the South side? No wonder.

The stereotypes ingrained in Chicago culture about victims of gun violence have to stop before real change can be made.

So here’s the truth:

According to non-profit Chicago Survivors, more than two-thirds of the city’s victims are under age 30 and one-third have no arrest record. In almost one-third of cases, no motive is ever determined. Ninety percent of the victims are male and 95 percent are non-white.

According to Brad Stolbach of Healing Hurt People Chicago, most victims live in poverty-stricken communities and have been immersed in danger-prone environments throughout childhood.

However, these generalizations do not apply to every victim, nor do they necessarily determine the circumstances surrounding the shootings.

“There’s a lot of time and attention spent on the sensationalism,” says Chicago Survivors founder Joy McCormack. “No one really asks the right question, which is `how do we live in a culture where a 9-year-old can be executed?’ We have to be willing to get past the way we think about these stigmas and realize that it’s everyone’s problem.”

In fact, Stolbach says that research shows the way we think about victims and victims’ communities is one of the reasons the problem continues to grow.

“A lot of the violence is related to a sense of hopelessness that many young people have. … So, we need to collectively say that it’s unacceptable that a large part of our community is living with minimal resources, minimal opportunity and a sense of not having a future, and we need to think about how our resources are being used and use them differently,” he says.

Talk to your kids

Dion McGill, education program manager at the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, says we can’t underestimate how aware children are of the gun violence in their city.

“They know it’s happening, so they need to know why,” he says.

One of the ways McGill says we can combat future gun violence is by engaging the future generation in the conversation.

“Kids have the power to spark community and engagement in that community,” he says. “By acknowledging society’s problem, you can let kids know that using a gun to solve a problem is not OK and communicate the effects gun violence can have on their lives.”

McGill notes that talking about gun violence is another avenue to discuss the consequences of actions.

“I always say, `You can always apologize for your actions unless you use a gun,'” McGill says about his student education program.

Get involved

Parents and kids across Chicagoland have taken a stand against gun violence. Here are a few to join:

Chicago Survivors

A nonprofit founded with the idea that no loved one of a gun violence victim should have to face the loss alone. Be a crisis responder or donate.

Moms Demand Action

A grassroots movement to mobilize parents to advocate for stronger gun laws. Join as an advocate or donate.

The ARK of Saint Sabina

This community youth center provides a safe haven for children. Donate or volunteer as a tutor or mentor.

UCAN Chicago

UCAN serves 10,000 at-risk children through more than 30 programs. Donate or volunteer for an array of community projects and mentorship programs.

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