By Justin Valle, Nicholas Williams and Langston Neurohr
While gun violence continues to be a threat in Chicago, the issue in the city’s schools often takes place as isolated incidents between students, and not large-scale school massacres that are seen in instances like Uvalde, Texas, data shows.
Although there are also many reports and incidents of gun violence at schools in Chicago, they typically are smaller incidents and aren’t intended as large school massacres with random targets. Out of the nine school shooting incidents in Chicago since 1990, only two people have died while 16 have been injured, mostly as the result of robberies, gang feuds or stray bullets.
Erin Riordan, a teacher at Senn High School, said, “I feel like stuff on a larger scale is more likely to happen outside of our school than inside. I do think that school for a lot of our students is like a pretty safe place.”
As of Nov 11, Chicago has already seen 2,755 gun-related crimes in 2022. Only 160 arrests were made as a result of those cases.
From Jan. 1 to July 20, Chicago saw the highest number of mass shootings from any city in the nation. Not including the Highland Park mass shooting, Chicago saw 24 mass shootings in the first half of 2022. Although the number of mass shootings is incredibly high in Chicago, most of them don’t make nationwide news coverage as they are the result of targeted gang feuds and take place in unsafe neighborhoods.
The Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting took many by surprise since this shooting happened in a very upscale community just north of the city.
In late May, Uvalde became the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos walked into Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, and opened fire into two classrooms. Of the 21 fatal victims, 19 of them were children all under the age of 12. Those 21 families would never be the same.
Julian Salazar, a member of one of the Uvalde families, learned through a phone call that his sister, Layla Salazar, 11 was at the site of a school shooting. The Salazar family waited at the Civic Center in Uvalde for hours for confirmation regarding their daughter. It wasn’t until 10 p.m that the Salazars, along with other families, would learn what they dreaded most.
That day brought sorrow and pain, but the following weeks would bring anger and a series of what-ifs.
“I didn’t know how my sister was or if she was crying and probably calling our names or now we wouldn’t see her,” Julian Salazar recalled.
Controversy regarding the engagement of law enforcement and gun control laws stemmed from the shooting. Many questions were targeted toward Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a conservative and pro-gun advocate. Despite Abbott’s failure, he successfully won his reelection for governor. Abbott won Uvalde County with 77% of the vote.
Abbott has worked to make it even easier to obtain firearms. For example, last year he passed a constitutional carry act. In Texas, an 18-year-old can walk into an arms dealership and start the process to purchase a firearm. That same individual cannot buy beer.
Studies show Uvalde’s beliefs are based on its rural roots. Many residents are Republicans who are accustomed to living a particular lifestyle. Uvalde is a small town with regular people who simply live the life they aspire for. It’s truly an honest living. No one expected the shooting to happen. But maybe small towns should be cautious going forward.
In fact, mass school shootings are more likely to happen in small towns and suburbs than large cities. Out of the 19 largest school shootings by victims in America since 1982, 12 of them have taken place in towns with less than 50,000 residents, five happened in towns with under 100,000 residents, and only 2 of them took place in communities with over 100,000 residents.
Nicole Nguyen, associate professor of criminology, law & justice, and educational policy studies, makes note of the much easier access to guns in smaller communities, saying it is “in part about getting access to guns in ways that other people [in cities] might not have access to guns.”
Nguyen also mentions that gun violence and mass shooting are only the end result of much more structural conditions, “you can take away the guns, but you’d still have this rage – but also what has produced that rage in society, what has told that young person the way you solve social problems is through the enactment of violence.
Nguyen said she believes some of the most notable structural conditions that foster these types of reactions, surround the ideas of “masculinity, whiteness, and white supremacy” in U.S. society.
While cities’ stricter gun laws certainly restrict a student’s ability to access a firearm, the social conditions and ideologies that result in these tragedies can’t be legislated upon. Riordan of Senn believes the diversity of schools in the city helps combat such ideologies.
“I think there’s a lot of different people that go to Senn, and a lot of different beliefs and backgrounds, and I think that’s helpful in accepting of other people,” Riordan says. “So, I feel less threatened, or I feel like there’s less of a threat of like a student being really singled out that way, and feeling hopeless in that manner”
Although Riordan believes that a community like Chicago is more capable of developing accepting individuals, she still worries about the phenomenon of school shootings, but working in CPS has built up her tolerance to deal with such external worries, saying “I feel I kind of compartmentalize it like I do all the weird stuff that happens at CPS, and kind of just go on with my day.”
While mass school shootings may not be a concern for all Chicagoans, the threat of becoming a victim of gun violence is still a very prevalent fear among many residents and commuters of Chicago.
As many students are traveling from suburbs to unfamiliar territory in Chicago there are some worries that go through their head. Anthony Odicho, a senior at the University of DePaul’s Loop campus is one of these students that worries.
“It does scare me to an extent.”, he said. “I often receive emails about public safety near my campus and I fear that anything can happen.”
On Feb. 5, 2020 a man was shot at the UIC-Halsted Blue Line stop at 10:45 a.m. This was a shock to most people since it was so close to the campus.
During the 2020-2021 school year the US was at an all-time high for school shootings. This is the sad reality of the world we live in today. These mass attacks are becoming more common and people are getting scared and tired of hearing about it.
“I feel like school shootings are more prominent in high schools where people don’t have a proper understanding of what they’re actually doing,” said Mansoor Syed, an IIT senior. ”People in college know what they are getting themselves into and there isn’t the same social structure as high school making it less likely for someone to be lead to school shooting”
Some look at these shootings and are very desensitized to murder in these times. In Chicago most people when they hear about shootings just think it’s another day in the city.
“Since it’s not that uncommon to hear about shootings in Chicago, and since I wasn’t actually able to witness it, I just thought like damn that’s crazy to think about.”, he said. “But overall I’m pretty desensitized to the reporting.“