On a day when President Joe Biden proposed a set of reforms to existing U.S. gun laws, Chicago passed a grim milestone. An incident on I-57 marked the city's 59th expressway shooting this year---nearly 3 times the number at this same time in 2020.
In the latest incident, the Illinois State Police responded to a shooting in the northbound lanes of I-57 at Halsted. Video from the scene showed a white Pontiac sedan riddled with bullet holes. Investigators said one person was transported to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.
With 59 expressway shootings, Chicago has nearly tripled the level on this same date last year, when there had been 22 such incidents on area highways.
When NBC 5 asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the plague of expressway shootings at an unrelated event Wednesday, she suggested the coronavirus pandemic was at least a contributor to the violence.
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"It's astounding to me that people have so little regard for human life," Lightfoot said. "Unfortunately, we are continuing to see not only in Chicago but across the country, an increase in violence in cities, really I think, arising from the pandemic."
While that may be true about crime in general, expressway shootings have proven to be a uniquely Chicago problem. Few other cities have reported significant numbers.
Indeed, while Detroit has had ten such shootings this year, Chicago has had nearly six times that number. Police say in almost all cases, the victims and perpetrators know each other, and that the roadway disputes most likely originated in Chicago neighborhoods and migrated to the streets.
One of the chief initiatives announced by the president on Thursday was an initiative to limit so-called "ghost guns", weapons built from kits which are virtually untraceable. However, as troubling as those guns may be, they do not appear to be a significant driver of the mayhem plaguing Chicago.
Out of 11,258 weapons seized by Chicago Police last year, only 139 fell into the "ghost gun" category, about 1% of the guns taken off Chicago's streets.
CPD said Thursday there had been 646 shooting incidents so far this year, with 743 victims. There have been 142 murders in the city this year, but a police spokesman noted not all of those were shooting deaths.