As Chicago tries to make sense of a deadly Fourth of July weekend that, according to some estimates, saw 82 people shot in an 84-hour period, police turned the dialogue to Chicago’s gun laws and rampant illegal gun trade.
Many of the shootings involved adults, but a number of youth fell victim as well.
Between 3:30 p.m. Thursday and 3:30 a.m. Monday, 11 people were killed and least 50 people wounded in shootings. Police were involved in five shootings, two of which involved teens fatally shot by officers.
Pedros Rios, 14, was the weekend’s first teenage casualty. At 10 p.m. Friday, officers approached Rios in the 3800 block of North Cicero Avenue when they saw an “object protruding from his waistband,” said a Chicago Police Department (CPD) statement. Rios allegedly fled, then turned around to point a “large revolver” at pursuing police. Officers opened fire, killing Rios.
At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, police responded to a 911 call of “shots fired,” according to a CPD statement. Officers chased 16-year-old Warren Robinson on foot through the Gresham neighborhood, into a backyard in the 8700 block of S. Sangamon, where they found Robinson hiding under a car.
“He is coming out from the car with the gun in hand. At that point he shot. He is told again…to drop the gun and he refuses to do so… The officers again defend themselves,” said police union spokesman Pat Camden.
Robinson was pronounced dead at the scene.
However, witnesses dispute officers’ version of events, telling reporters that Robinson’s hands in the air when he was shot.
While the CPD said it has seized over 3,390 illegal guns in Chicago so far this year, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stressed Monday that lax gun laws keep offenders armed and on the streets. These laws, coupled with a vibrant illegal gun trade, have led Chicago’s most economically stressed and violence-stained neighborhoods to become flooded with weapons.
McCarthy didn’t try to gloss over the violence – nor did Mayor Rahm Emanuel – during appearances Monday. In fact, they said the bloodshed, to them, was as just as baffling and unpredictable and hard to contain as much as it was for people in Chicago trying to come to grips with the stain of violence.
“There’s a greater sanction for the gang member to lose that firearm from their gang, than there is to go to jail for possession of that gun,” he said. “When I chase people in New York, they used to throw their guns away. We chase people here in Chicago—they keep the guns and they turn on our officers. These offenders need to be held fully accountable for violent behavior, to prevent them ending back up on the street too soon to cause more violence.
“There’s too many guns coming in, and too little punishment coming out. Our officers would not be forced to use their weapons if the offenders were not armed with illegal weapons,” he added.
According to McCarthy, there have still been 11 fewer gun-related murders in Chicago so far this year than at the same point in 2013. However, incidents of gun violence—as opposed to homicide—were up 6 percent from last year by June 29, according to statistics released by the CPD last week.
“What happened this weekend is totally unacceptable to every resident of the city of Chicago, regardless of where they live,” said Emanuel Monday. “It is senseless. It is meaningless. It needs to, and it can, stop, if everybody puts the guns down.”