What Will IL Gov. Candidates Do To Prevent Child Homicide? Not Much.

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CHICAGO — An entire classroom of Texas kids and two teachers got slaughtered by an assault rifle-wielding teenager with a speech impediment, who got bullied at his high school.

And all I can think about is why there isn’t anyone running for Illinois governor — from either political party — offering up a comprehensive plan to do more to protect children.

You wouldn’t know it from the campaign ads, but politicians fail kids in Illinois.

Find out what’s happening in Chicagowith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Since 2017, homicide and suicide combined has been the No. 1 reasons kids in our state died young.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith has been found in contempt of court 11 times for the agency’s failure to properly care for wards of the state.

Find out what’s happening in Chicagowith free, real-time updates from Patch.

So far this year, 82 kids have been shot in Chicago, 18 fatally.

That’s one fewer child homicide than Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

But protecting kids isn’t a top campaign issue in Illinois.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered "prayers" to Texas families and "resolve" to stand with folks fighting to end senseless violence "where ever it occurs."

Which I think must exclude Illinois, the senseless violence capital of the Midwest.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Democrat got in a Twitter war with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who deflected calls to bolster lax laws on gun ownership in his state with a callus, yet true, statistical analysis.

"I hate to say this, there are more people that are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas," Abbott said, as if that that bit of truth justifies the absence of laws that might have prohibited a high school kid to buy two AR-15s on his 18th birthday like loaves of bread.

"Shame on you, @GovAbbott. You are lying about Chicago and what actually perpetuates gun violence," Pritzker wrote in a headline-grabbing tweet. "The majority of guns used in Chicago shootings come from states with lax gun laws. Do better. You have 19 kids and two teachers who deserve our best."

As "proof," the Chicago Democrat included in his Tweet a 2017 news story about a study that found 60 percent of guns recovered in Chicago came from out-of-state dealers.

And just like that, the murder of 21 people at a Texas school became a partisan election-year pissing contest over political ideology about whose to blame for not leading an effort to curb violence, our country’s undeclared public health crisis.

The Texas schoolhouse massacre should have us talking about how to better protect our youth from the sad state of our politically divided society.

Yet during Tuesday’s back-to-back Republican gubernatorial candidate forums, the men vying for a primary win came across as clueless as Pritzker when asked about protecting Illinois kids.

Max Solomon said he would make sure every school has armed security guards. You know, like prisons.

Former state Rep. Paul Schimpf said if he’s elected, he supports "exploring mental illness" and helping "law enforcement do their job" to keep kids safe.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said he would "stand strong" and "support our police … and don’t allow weapons to get in the hands of criminals."

The three candidates that participated in a WGN9 forum couldn’t cobble together an articulate response between them about stemming Illinois’ shooting problem.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, for instance, called Chicago a "hellhole," and said he would have led what sounded like a National Guard invasion of Chicago during the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s murder.

And Pritzker, well, he made a huge election-year promise to deliver $50 million dollars to fund "immediate" violence-prevention efforts in crime-ridden parts of Illinois.

But his administration slow-walked spending the federal cash on programs they’re not sure actually work, while violent crime continued as usual in Illinois.

Illinois’ next governor isn’t running on a promise to protect kids and address root causes of violence, including living in poverty, which researchers will tell you makes young people exponentially more likely to die from a bullet.

Politicians who say there’s a simple answer — support cops, fund anti-violence programs, explore mental illness (whatever that means) and regulate gun sales, for instance — are just trying to get your vote on election day.

Illinois kids remain an afterthought.

Shame on them.


Mark Konkol, recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, wrote and produced the Peabody Award-winning series "Time: The Kalief Browder Story." He was a producer, writer and narrator for the "Chicagoland" docuseries on CNN and a consulting producer on the Showtime documentary "16 Shots.

Read More From Mark Konkol:

via Chicago, IL Patch

May 25, 2022 at 07:27PM

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