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Even a barbecue is dangerous in violence-prone neighborhoods

Posted Jul 9, 2014 6:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The shooting violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend is all too familiar for a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and a 16-year-old girl whose cousin was among those killed.

The tally of the shooting deaths over Chicago’s Fourth of July weekend increased to 16 on Monday after two more people shot over the weekend died on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that day. Seventy-six others were wounded. Three of those injured and two of those killed were shot by police.

Krystal Scott, 16, told the Chicago Tribune she was sitting outside her home enjoying tacos made by her cousin, 44-year-old Tonya Gunn, at a family barbecue when a drive-by shooter fired. Tonya Gunn, who worked in customer service at the University of Chicago, was shot twice. She apparently died in the ambulance, Scott said.

Scott told the Tribune she is aware of the danger in her neighborhood. "When I'm walking home, I don't know what I'm walking into," she said. "I just want to say to the neighborhood and to the city, 'Be safe, be careful.' "

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell said she passed up invitations to enjoy barbecues with family and friends last weekend because she didn’t want to risk becoming an unintended target. “That’s where we are now,” Mitchell wrote. “You don’t have to be gang or drug-related, or be involved in an explosive domestic partnership, or even be the target of robbers and carjackers to get shot.”

Mitchell agrees that the solution should include more alternatives for young people and better schools to educate them. She backs harsher sentences for criminals caught with illegal guns. She also sees the need for more aggressive police work.

“While police are allowed to set up roadblocks to check for impaired drivers, or to check if you’re wearing a seatbelt, elected officials are opposed to any type of stop-and-frisk policing strategy,” she wrote. “Working-class and poor people have become the collateral damage in a culture war that most of us refuse to acknowledge.”

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