Chicago experienced its 500th murder of the year on Thursday night, when a 40-year-old man was shot to death in the Austin neighborhood. It was only the second time in the last ten years the city has reached that mark. In 2008, 513 people were murdered.
However, this year’s violence has attracted unprecedented national attention to Chicago. In October, Diane Sawyer held a town hall meeting at St. Sabina’s Church, hosted by Father Michael Pfleger. The killings have earned the city the nickname “Chiraq” and have been inspired an emerging Chicago rap form known as drill.
“The toughened reality of living in these neighborhoods is what shaped Drill music, a slang term for retaliation and a new style of hip-hop that represents a turning away from Chicago’s socially conscious wave represented by Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, the Cool Kids and others to a darker, more hard-core sound, recognized by sinister keyboards, brittle beats and voyeuristic tales involving girls, Kush smoking, but primarily violence,” Salon wrote in an article on rapper Chief Keef, who was investigated for his connection to the shooting of a rival named Lil Jojo.
The city’s murders have also made it a case study in the debate on gun control. Second Amendment defenders point to the fact that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation as proof that gun control is not only ineffective, but causes more violence.
“The reality is that the only people being denied guns under Obama's scenario are law-abiding citizens,” wrote Breitbart.com, in an article titled “Obama‘s gun control not working out in Chicago.” “And this means criminals are beginning to understand they can carry out their misdeeds with a impunity, as the citizens they accost or attack have no weapons with which to fight back. As a result, Chicago is on track to have more than 500 gun-related deaths for this year alone.”
Probably the most read article in the history of Ward Room is a piece entitled “The Deadliest Global City,” which pointed out that Chicago has a higher murder rate than any other Alpha world city. It’s been popular with conservatives who believe gun control is responsible for the murders.
Whatever is causing it, as we move into 2013, the most important issue facing this city and this state is not education, or the pension crisis, or the parking meters -- it’s murder.