Local Representatives Join IOP to Discuss Gun Violence in Chicago

Speakers stressed the complex causes of violent crime and the importance of community-based solutions


Institute of Politics

The Institute of Politics building.

By Ben Wiener

The Institute of Politics hosted a discussion on gun violence in Chicago last Wednesday. The panel featured Representative Robin Kelly, former Illinois State Representative Ed Sullivan, and UChicago Crime Lab executive director Roseanna Ander. The Chicago Tribune’s Annie Sweeney moderated the discussion.

One of the main questions the panelists discussed was why Chicago experiences so much gun violence. Ander noted that 25 years ago, Chicago’s gun violence rate was similar to that of other major cities. However, the Windy City has been disproportionately affected by increases in recent years and during the pandemic. Sullivan attributed the rise in violent crime to broader social issues and inequalities. “It’s institutional racism, it’s economic disparities,” he said.

The panel members also debated what policies could improve the situation. As Ander pointed out, “[Los Angeles] went through a significant decades-long police reform effort that cost many millions of dollars.” She suggested that “even though we have differences from New York and L.A., there are things from their playbook that we can implement.”

Sullivan agreed, saying that “it comes down to resources.” In particular, he emphasized the need for increased federal funding and more youth centers. “We do have to get into the neighborhoods to see­­: do we have youth centers in these high crime areas?” Sullivan said.

While addressing the complexity of the solution, Ander argued that “people look for a silver bullet, but we really need a golden portfolio.” She suggested solutions such as innovating “through CP4P, which is a constellation of community-based anti-violence organizations collaborating on doing street outreach and other services.”

Representative Kelly acknowledged the limited capabilities of legislation, declaring that “we can’t legislate ourselves out of the issue.” She stressed that reducing gun violence in Chicago will require efforts from not only representatives but also community leaders and organizations. A succinct distillation of the solutions proposed throughout the discussion followed soon after: “nothing stops a bullet like an opportunity.”