By Molly Schneider
JCUA Community Organizing Intern
But is it safe? After deciding to pick up and move from Boston to the Windy City, questions of violence were first on the minds of my family and friends.
Perceived to be the murder capital of the United States, with a population of 2.7 million people, Chicago does not actually have the highest murder rate in the country. A recent Pew Research Center report doesn’t even place it in the top 10. Yet access to guns is unprecedented.
According to Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, the Chicago police recover seven times as many illegal guns as the NYPD.
In 2013 alone the city of Chicago witnessed 440 murders and 1,864 shootings. The CDC recorded an average of one person killed by guns every eight hours. These statistics are sobering but they are not entirely surprising. While attending the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Summit on Oct. 8 I learned something that brought into question all of my stereotypes and misconceptions: Illinois has some of the toughest and most comprehensive gun laws in the entire country.
How can that be possible? How can staggering violence occur in the face of fierce legislation? The logic is in the loopholes–the gaps in the laws.
According to research collected by the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, 41 percent of firearm deaths in Illinois are due to suicide. While there are federal and state laws to keep guns out of the hands of those considered most dangerous to others, seldom discussed is the need to prevent access to guns for individuals most dangerous to themselves. California has found a unique way to fill the gaps in our laws and meet this need.
On Sept. 30, with the passage of AB 1014, California became the first state in the country to pass a Gun Violence Restraining Order law. By providing family members the opportunity to restrict a relative’s access to gun ownership through petitioning the courts, this law offers families a safe way to protect their loved ones. While restraining orders might be a controversial attempt to strengthen gun violence prevention, it resonated at the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Summit.
Looking around at the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Summit, I realized there was a common thread that brought us all together. In one way or another, all of our lives had been touched by gun violence. Community organizers and city officials, teachers and millennials, parents of children whose lives were taken too early and parents who fear for their children’s safety each day–all of us feel the impact.
As a student at the University of Chicago, I reside in a neighborhood considered to be a haven within the larger South Side community. However as a Chicagoan and as a Jew, gun violence is an issue that concerns me. It concerns all of us.
In Judaism, human life is sacred. Not only does the bible tell us, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13), it also instructs us, “Do not stand by the bloodshed of your fellow” (Leviticus 19:16). As Jewish people, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of those around us by preventing violence. Through our commitment to gun violence prevention and campaign to help establish a level-1 trauma center on the South Side of Chicago, JCUA puts into action those tenets that are so vital to Judaism.
Learn more about the recent role Jews have played in gun violence prevention: