Chicago violence: A haystack with no last straw in sight

In this morning’s RedEye (a Chicago Tribune publication) Brian Moore asks if there is such a thing as a “last straw” when it comes to the senseless violence plaguing Chicago’s neighborhoods.  Brian says that he doesn’t know the answer.   I don’t either, but I’m not sure we’re asking the right question.

We’ve seen our share of what could be called watershed events or tipping points.  Nationally, we could point to shootings in Georgia, Arizona, Colorado and, most recently Newtown, Connecticut.   Any of these events should have enough stun value to precipitate movement, collectively it should be a certainty.

The violent events mentioned above, though can not be grouped with the everyday shootings rampant on our streets, the most recent of which claimed the lives of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins and 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton.   Those shootings inside schools, movie theaters and in shopping centers are born of a different malady, one that is more random and more difficult to predict.  They are violence perpetrated for its own sake, the perpetrator either caught or dying by his own hand.

The type of violence claiming the lives of innocent bystanders is the product of illicit commerce, pure and simple.   Just like it was during the 14 years covered by Prohibition, when gangs mowed each other down with Tommy guns for control of bootleg liquor distribution.   The main differences now are that it is much more widespread, every street corner is a potential battleground and there is no deference for “civilians”.

Like Brian Moore, I don’t have the answer.   What I do know is that anything outlawed soon finds its way to a black market and a fertile breeding ground of violent conflict. I don’t think legalizing drugs is the greatest idea I’ve ever heard.   I do think it’s by far the lesser of two evils.   The question in my mind isn’t what will be the last straw, it’s what it will prompt us to take a real first step.

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