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Chicago’s top cop: “There are two pandemics in Chicago, and only one is virus induced”

April 9, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and people are socially distancing around the country, gun violence continues in large cities around the country, including Chicago. Yesterday, Chicago interim police Superintendent Charlie Beck and Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke out about a spike in violence in the city, noting “there are two pandemics in Chicago, and only one is virus induced.”

On Tuesday, at least 21 people were shot — seven shot and killed with 14 others wounded, including a 5-year-old girl — marking the deadliest day from gunfire in nearly two years. On Wednesday, during a five-hour span, nine more people were shot — one reported as unintentional — and two people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy. 

Gun violence has also continued elsewhere in Illinois. Over the weekend, Will County police responded to a fatal domestic violence dispute amid coronavirus concerns. Illinois has over 1,300 gun deaths every year, and the totals continue to rise—increasing 32 percent in the last decade, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide. The rate of gun suicide increased 39 percent, and gun homicide increased 29 percent in the last decade. 

Illinois has the third-highest gun death rate for Black people of any state in the country. Black people in Illinois are also 34 times as likely to die by gun homicide as white people, compared to 10 times as likely nationwide. 

Much like gun violence, the coronavirus pandemic is also disproportionately affecting Black communities in Chicago and around the country. In Chicago, which is 30 percent Black, Black Americans account for 70 percent of all coronavirus cases in the city and more than half of the state’s deaths.

The long-term impacts of the pandemic and social distancing on gun violence are still to be seen, but one thing is clear: in addition to its own devastating toll, the continuing public health crisis of gun violence puts further strain on a medical system struggling to keep up with incoming COVID-19 cases. 

Research has shown that community-based gun violence prevention and intervention programs are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries in communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. As the shootings continue, local intervention programs have proven to be essential, and workers have adapted their strategies in recent times to continue helping their communities hit hardest by gun violence. It’s imperative these programs continue to receive support to prevent gun violence.   

In addition to gun violence happening in cities, domestic violence hotlines across the country are seeing upticks in calls, as are suicide prevention hotlines. And with more kids and teens at home, unsecured guns are raising concerns about increases in unintentional shootings and gun suicides.  

More information about daily gun violence is available here. Statistics about gun violence in Illinois are available here, and information on how Illinois’ gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.  

If you’re interested in learning more about gun violence during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request an interview with a policy expert.

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