There is no doubt Chicago is facing a gun crisis. In the first three months of this year murders are up more than 80 per cent compared with the same period in 2015. A total of 135 people have been shot dead, more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.
At least 727 people have suffered gunshot wounds in the most violent start to a year in two decades. Guns are changing hands for less than US$50. Most of the shootings take place in parts of the city’s South and West Sides, where gangs have splintered into small factions fighting over a few blocks.
Increasingly, death is preceded by social media taunts in what has become known as “cyberbanging.”
Professor Arthur Lurigio, a criminal justice expert at Loyola University Chicago said: “You have to be hyper-masculine, so if you get insulted on Facebook the only face-saving thing is to go shoot someone. The problem is they can’t shoot, they’ve never been to a practice range, so innocent children are getting hit.”
One of those innocent children was Zarriel Trotter, 13, who had recently appeared in an award-winning Internet campaign against guns. In the film Zarriel says: “I don’t want to live around my community where I’ve got to keep on hearing people getting shot.”
Last week Zarriel was himself shot in the back as he walked home from basketball practice and was left in a critical condition in hospital. According to witnesses, he was passing by as two groups of young boys opened fire following an argument over a girl.
Other incidents also stand out. One was the assassination of Tyshawn Lee, nine. He was murdered in an alleyway, allegedly by gang rivals of his father.
Actually the problem is that they are shooting each other after being insulted on Facebook.