Youth Violence Demands Daley's Attention

April 18, 2008

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Walter Jacobson

A four-year-old boy is the latest victim of gun violence in Chicago. The boy was sitting in a car that was parked near 68th Street and S. Damen Ave. in West Englewood yesterday when several shots were fired during a drive-by. One of the bullets hit the boy in the right leg. He's reportedly in fair condition at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. It's just another example of the rampant violence that has parents fearing for their children's lives and lawmakers, police and school officials scrambling for solutions. Walter Jacobson says now's the time for the big man to get involved.

At a news conference the other day, I heard Mayor Richard M Daley talking about school children being murdered on the streets of Chicago. Acts of indescribable violence. More than 20 children: about one child a week since the beginning of the school year, bludgeoned into oblivion, or blown away by handguns and automatic rifles.

Unbelievable, said the Mayor, frustrated, angry, near tears. Inexcusable! Intolerable. And the worst of it, he said, is that nobody cares anymore. People are so accustomed to violence in our streets, and the cries of children being slaughtered, they don't even think about it anymore.

By comparison, he said: someone smokes a cigarette in a restaurant, and people go bananas. They call the police, they call the alderman. They call me, like a smoking cigarette is worse than a smoking gun. It's UNBELIEVABLE!!

You've seen the Mayor like that, lifting his hands to heaven, about to explode. Why, dear God, won't the Governor and the General Assembly in Springfield? Why won't they help me get guns off the streets? Why won't they do what we elect them to do: protect our children?

When Richard M. Daley gets emotional, he's very convincing, urging the Assembly to control the traffic in illegal weapons, and to add restrictions on the sale of weapons. We need laws, he wails, to make it more difficult to get licenses to fire weapons, or to build arsenals in basements. The Assembly must act. Please, act on gun control.          

For the record, and lest we forget: Richard M. Daley is the most powerful politician in the state of Illinois, the most fearsome character in local and state government. Maybe not quite the boss his dad was, but a boss. For sure, a boss. 

He chooses candidates for membership in the General Assembly, and has the captains and troops in the precincts to get them elected, and unelected.

When Mayor Daley wants to be, he can be a powerhouse bully-in-a-pulpit.  When he wants to be heard by the politicians in Springfield, he is heard.  And when in the privacy of his office he wants to get tough, he'll twist an arm like you wouldn't believe.

But to stop the violence to save our children, Mayor Daley is asking the General Assembly to get tougher on guns? He says he has to ask? I don't believe that.

Now, there's no doubt that it's a challenge to twist more arms than the National Rifle Association is twisting. And it's not easy to out-bully the NRA, which is dishing big money in Springfield. But you can do it, Mr. Mayor, I know you can. Give it a shot.