Chicago and Illinois: Gun Violence

Report
April 1, 2014

Chicago and Illinois: Gun Violence

Amnesty International's report, Bringing Human Rights Home to Chicago and Illinois, is an action-oriented blueprint for advancing human rights in Chicago and Illinois. The report, prepared in connection with Amnesty International USA's annual Human Rights Conference, outlines ten pressing human rights issues facing the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois as a whole and recommends steps for immediate action by city, state and/or federal officials.

 

Gun violence is a widespread problem across the United States. Each year, more than 11,000 people are killed as a result of someone pulling a trigger. Gun violence impacts a range of human rights from the right to life; security of the person; to the rights to education; freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination. The reasons for gun violence in Chicago are complex. Poverty, unemployment, lack of access to education, and the fragmentation of gangs across the city are some of the factors that play a role in the violence. Also, the recent decision to close nearly 50 public schools has put thousands of children going to school at risk of violence or death. All states have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, including the right to life and security of the person, and have a duty to take positive measures to prevent acts of violence and unlawful killings.

Gun Violence in Chicago

In 2013, 414 people were killed in Chicago; with more than 80 percent of those deaths attributed to gun violence. While amounting to an 18 percent decrease from 2012, which saw a total of 506 homicides that year, Chicago had the highest number of homicides across the country in 2013. Chicago's homicide rate is alarmingly elevated, especially compared with other big cities like Los Angeles and New York. For instance, New York City has three times the population of Chicago, and had 333 murders in 2013. Los Angeles, with over a million more people than Chicago, had 255 murders in 2013. Seventy-five percent of Chicago's gun-death victims in 2012 were African- American or Latino.

Violence affects everyone in Chicago, but it is particularly devastating for the City's youth who are so often the perpetrators and victims of violence. From 2008-2012, almost half of Chicago's 2,389 homicide victims were killed before their 25th birthdays.

While an alarming number of young people in Chicago have been killed in gun attacks, many more are exposed to gun violence on a regular basis. While 414 people were killed in 2013, there were a total of 1,864 shootings in the city which resulted in 2,328 gunshot survivors. There were an additional 10,343 crimes committed with a handgun or firearm in Chicago during 2013. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to violence suffer increased rates of depression, aggression, delinquency, and poor school performance.

Chicago's homicides have taken place mostly in neighborhoods in the west and south of the city. Gun crime in Chicago is most prevalent in communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment. The City of Chicago as a whole has an extreme poverty rate of nearly 10 percent, with more than 260,000 households living in extreme poverty (i.e. $10,000 or less for a family of three in 2012). The high school graduation rate for black males in Chicago is 39 per cent and a staggering 92 per cent of all black males aged 16-19 were unemployed in 2012. These issues are also human rights issues: the right to a living wage; affordable housing; equal access to education and health care, including mental health care, are human rights.