On Monday night, Aug. 29, another child was gunned down on the streets of Chicago. He was the 28th child shot to death in Chicago this year.
Elijah Sims, 16, was standing with a friend on the corner of 5500 W. Quincy St. between 10 and 10:30 p.m., when he was shot in the head. He died hours later.
His death increases the toll of children younger than 17 killed in Chicago to 28 in 2016 so far. That is the same number as the entirety of 2015. Of the children killed this year, 23 were black. Five were Latino. None were white. Would our response and failure to act be the same if this disparity were reversed?
Keep in mind that this is just the number of children who have died from their gunshot injuries. It does not reflect the far greater number who have been shot and survived. And it does not take into account the myriad of challenges for their parents, caregivers, and the taxpayers of the city and county.
This is the shame of our supposedly world-class city. And our leaders should be deeply ashamed of our failure to solve this problem before these young lives were taken.
If the measure of our society is how we treat our most vulnerable citizens — namely our children — can there be any doubt that we are failing as a society?
The numbers prove beyond doubt that this crisis is worsening. But this is about more than numbers. It’s about Elijah, who was just two days shy of his 17th birthday. It’s about the senior year of high school cut short, and the graduation that will never take place. It’s about the promise that will never be fulfilled, the 27 other children who will never grow up, and the families forever changed, devastated by unimaginable loss.
Simply put, we cannot tolerate this.
We cannot tolerate the loss of another 10 or 20 or who knows how many more children in 2016.
It is past time for our leaders to resort to extraordinary measures.
These measures include the mobilization of our federal law enforcement partners — the FBI, DEA, ATF and others — in addition to the Illinois State Police and Cook County Sheriff’s Police. To create access to these additional layers of law enforcement, Governor Bruce Rauner should declare a State of Emergency in Chicago and Cook County immediately.
An Emergency Declaration would also create a funnel for an infusion of dollars into these communities, providing social services, counseling, workforce training and economic opportunities that have been missing in parts of Chicago for decades.
The General Assembly should also pass, and Gov. Rauner should sign, legislation imposing mandatory minimum sentences on individuals convicted of illegal firearm possession. As both Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson have said, we know who most of the shooters are. But knowing who they are is not enough. We must provide our judges with the structure and tools necessary to keep the shooters off the streets.
Gov. Rauner, Mayor Emanuel, and too many of our elected state and city leaders have complained for far too long about systemic limitations on their ability to act. They have allowed politics to stymie the solutions to this crisis.
The time for excuses, however, is over. We must leverage all of our resources and our creativity to solve the problem of gun violence in Chicago. If we do not, we will have lost both a generation of children and our humanity.
Richard Boykin represents the 1st District on the Cook County Board, which includes Oak Park.