Stephon Foster, 7, bikes by a crime scene in Avalon Park, Chicago, where two people were shot, June 2014.
Over 1,800 people were shot in Chicago this year. More than 400 of them died. Some years, more people have died from gun violence in that city than in Los Angeles and New York combined; in some neighborhoods, shootings are a terrifying daily event. And yet, contrary to what certain politicians might say, Chicago is not the murder capital of America—not even close. Instead, last year it barely scraped into the top ten for shootings per capita, far behind Cleveland, New Orleans, and St. Louis (the actual murder capital of America). And that may be because most of its shootings happen in just two parts of the city, which are scarred by years of racist policies and municipal neglect: the South and West Sides.
Photojournalist Alex Wroblewski started documenting the effects of gun violence in Chicago in 2013. After days spent covering news stories for local outlets, he started turning his lens on his own South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park after-hours in an attempt to understand the ongoing violence that affected his mostly low-income, African American and Latino neighbors. By 2014, when Wroblewski took the photographs shown here, the city’s homicide rate was down, but the number of shootings had increased. Shooting incidents and deaths have risen and fallen and risen since then, with Chicago residents, police, and politicians laying blame for the crime epidemic on everything from illegal gun sales to a lack of “faith.” This past August, 71 people were shot in a single weekend. Afterward, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that hundreds more cops would be sent out into affected neighborhoods, but he also claimed that what residents really needed was an “attitudinal change.”
That’s not the kind of solution residents are looking for. Instead, at the beginning of October, two Chicago mothers and one grandmother brought a class-action lawsuit against Illinois governor Bruce Rauner for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Rauner vetoed a crucial gun-sales law earlier this year; the plaintiffs want their state to be called to account for the trauma that is literally handicapping their children. This may be the first time mental health has been used as a legal argument for gun control in Illinois. Fear is a powerful motivator, but resilience can be, too.
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