Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was little more than a week removed from performing at President Obama’s second inauguration when bullets riddled her petite frame. Janay McFarlane, 18, had no inkling that she would be gunned down on the same afternoon that her sister, Destini Warren, 14, watched the president deliver a speech at Hyde Park Career Academy. The sudden deaths of these black queens have deepened America’s collective sadness. The First Lady attended Hadiya’s funeral, further sinking the tragedy in our national consciousness, but homicide is routine in Chicago. More than 500 people were killed by gun violence in 2012 according to the Chicago Tribune and the first month of 2013 was the bloodiest in a decade.
Pendleton and McFarlane’s deaths have inserted Chicago’s bloodshed into the larger gun control discourse, which has been consistently examined in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. massacre. But two of those three incidents are not interrelated. Chicago’s spike in gun violence stems from much more than lack of gun regulation. The Midwest war zone has one of the strictest gun policies in the nation. Assault weapons are prohibited and all handgun owners seeking a permit must adhere to an extensive background check. The Washington Times reported that during a raid, Chicago police seized more than 7,000 guns in a single sweep, but despite these policy initiatives, the extensive bloodshed continues.
The continuing incline in violence is partly due to innercity gun trafficking; though assault weapons are banned, handguns are used in 80 percent of Chicago’s murders according to Chicago Business. These are usually transported from areas in Illinois where gun control is more lax or Mississippi, where 400 guns were traced from during the Chicago Police Department’s recovery efforts.
Rev. Ira J. Acree, who advocates for gun control legislation, explains it best. “Chicago is like a house with two parents that may try to have good rules and do what they can, but it’s like you’ve got this single house sitting on a whole block where there’s anarchy.”