Murdered teen becomes symbol of Chicago violence - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Hadiya Pendleton: Murdered teen becomes symbol of Chicago violence

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

This week's murder of 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton has become a nationwide symbol of Chicago's shocking level of street violence.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on this case. Some blame easy availability of guns, while others point at the illegal drug trade that pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into Chicago's vast, feuding street gangs. Chicago has seen that before.

While the identity of the gunman who killed honor roll student Hadiya Pendleton remains unclear, Chicago police claim that 75 percent or more of the murders in Chicago involve some street gang connection. Analysts say much of the bloodshed comes as the area's 625 feuding gang factions battle to control pieces of the multi-billion trade in illegal narcotics.

"We tear down the project buildings in Chicago and now we disperse the kids from different gangs that used to be organized by project buildings and putting the same members of opposing gangs on the same street fighting over who's gonna be in charge of the drug distribution system on that street," Former Assistant State's Attorney James Gierach says.

Gierach sees a comparison to the Al Capone era gangsters who got rich off bootleg booze. After that prohibition was repealed, Chicago's murder rate immediately plunged by more than 50%. Gierach said the same strategy could strip 21st-century gangs of their money. He favors a tightly-controlled and gradual legalization of most of the narcotics that are currently illegal.

Others, including 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns, insist that new restrictions on firearms, and new penalties for their misuse, would reduce Chicago's blood-dimmed tide of murder. He's also seen the rise of a scary, new kind of street thug: young gun-wielding nihilists who aren't fighting over drug money, but over trivial, alleged insults to their manhood.

"These are folks who claim control over a certain area and engage in taunts and violence with other young people," Burns says. "And they're not rational actors.

Alderman Burns, Jim Gierach and gun rights activist Charles Butler, who appeared on FOX 32 Sunday, did seem to agree on one step to take. They'd like the State of Illinois to reverse the budget cuts that have devastated social service agencies who could intervene in the lives of some of young gangster gunmen. State officials blame the soaring cost of public employee pensions.

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