CHICAGO — While much of the nation’s attention was focused on the gun massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend, Chicago was convulsed by its own burst of violence — the worst weekend the city has seen so far in 2019.
It was an extreme example of the routine but devastating gun violence, often related to gang conflicts, that cities like Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis experience on a regular basis. The police said seven people were killed and 52 wounded by gunfire throughout Chicago from Friday evening to Sunday, including a 5-year-old boy who was shot in the leg while sitting in a car.
Early Sunday, 17 people were shot in a period of two hours in a small pocket on the city’s West Side, turning residential blocks into chaotic scenes of ambulances, grieving family members and cars pockmarked with bullets.
There were 32 separate shooting incidents throughout the weekend, the police said.
Gun violence in Chicago tends to peak during the summer months, when school is out, the temperature is high and residents spend more time outside at social gatherings, which can be a magnet for conflict. Shootings and homicides have decreased in 2019, but there have been at least 300 homicides this year and 1,600 people shot, according to The Chicago Tribune.
On Monday morning, Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, tweeted a nearly minute-long audio recording of rapid gunfire from a shooting on the West Side on Sunday.
“Below is the sound that Chicago needs to change its ways on how we handle gun offenders,” he wrote. “Audio from the tragic shooting at 18th & Kildare yesterday shows that criminals have no deterrent to carrying illegal guns in our city and this is what residents and police are up against.”
The Chicago police have frequently criticized the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for issuing what they see as light sentences and bonds for gun offenders.
Illinois has among the strictest gun laws in the country, requiring most residents to acquire a license, or Firearm Owner’s Identification card, before legally owning a firearm or ammunition. Last year, lawmakers passed a measure requiring a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases and a so-called red flag law, which President Trump endorsed in a speech on Monday and that allows relatives and law enforcement officials to ask courts to confiscate firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. But many of the illegal weapons seized in Chicago come from across the state line in Indiana, where gun laws are less restrictive.
In one shooting last weekend, suspects fired into a large group of people who had gathered for a block party. “Three cars pulled up and they just started shooting everybody,” Keith Flowers, the father of one of the victims, told reporters. His son, Demetrius Flowers, 33, was shot in the chest and did not survive.
Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago was so overwhelmed that its emergency department temporarily stopped accepting patients with gunshot wounds in the early morning hours of Sunday.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has vowed to find solutions to the city’s problems with gun violence, which vexed her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel.
“Spent much of the weekend in West Side where the City and community orgs are working closely together to provide support to areas devastated by drugs and violence,” she wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I am absolutely determined to do everything possible help our communities heal.”