Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2000
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2000 The Sun-Times Co.
Contact:  401 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60611
Author: James E. Gierach


The recent murders of 12-year-old innocents Tsarina Powell, Miguel
DeLaRosa and a dozen or so others have prompted action. On July 22,
Mayor Daley and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) were on hand to lead
citizens in anti-violence activities. Daley led a CAPS march through a
Northwest Side neighborhood, and Rush convened a South Side meeting of
more than 600 leaders who brainstormed for solutions to stop the gun

The march and summit made points that apparently didn't score with
some gang-bangers, for by the next day, a drive-by shooting left four
more youngsters shot.

So much for another march against drugs, gangs and guns. And so much
for another summit, like the 1993 Stop-the-Killing Summit sponsored by
then-Ald. Robert Shaw and his brother state Sen. William Shaw, that
didn't let an "end-the-drug-war" word in edgewise.

I was baited into attending Rush's emergency leadership summit at
Chicago State University. Days before the summit, Rush said that
decriminalization of drugs was one idea that would be discussed at the
summit. Rush also evidenced insight into one major cause of gun
violence when he plainly said, "It's a turf battle over drugs." He
also said, "I believe that somehow we've got to look at, at least have
a discussion about . . . how do we take the profit out of drug use?"

I was hooked by those hopeful words.

But sometime before the summit Rush stopped whistling his hopeful
tune. From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I waited for Rush to broach the
promised subject or to invite another to raise it. Disappointingly,
the discussion of drug policy reform to stop the gun violence never
came and hope was gone.

The words "decriminalize drugs" and "take the profit out of drug use"
and "turf battle over drugs" never crossed Rush's lips.

Instead, the summit broke into 20 smaller discussion groups--all
simultaneously brainstorming and shouting to be heard in the same
room. Several groups listed drugs as a cause of gun violence and, at
my suggestion, "the war on drugs" also was listed. However, when I
suggested "an end to the drug war" as an action that if taken would
help stop the killing and maiming through gun violence (Focus Question
No. 2), the group monitor reported the suggestion as a need for "more
drug treatment."

So what action will stop the gun violence, according to summit leaders
and Daley-led marchers? Anything and everything but a change in
prohibition drug policy: jobs, education, mentoring, talking to your
kids, "responding as a whole community" and all the other old, tried
and failed, politically safe remedies.

Cannot we nip turf war-driven gun violence by committing massive
economic resources to the drug fight? No, a $1.3 billion gift to
Colombia and a prayer will not change the barbarous nature of
prohibition machinations. Nor will a $20-billion-a-year drug-war fix
quiet gang tensions or suppress gang greed, rivalry and contagion.

Cannot we protect children from gang gunfire while they sleep in their
beds and ride bikes in their 'hood by hiring 1,000 Chicago-based
parole agents to supervise the old rascals, and paring juvenile
protections to subdue the new rascals? Cannot the rapid-fire
implementation of another draft of Daley's anti-loitering ordinance
dissuade these gang-banging suspects from the pursuit of crime and
drug profits? Maybe trigger locks or lawsuits against gun
manufacturers? Or gun dealer prosecutions to deter their indirect
sharing in drug-prohibition revenues by selling firearms to gangster
intermediaries? How about motor-vehicle impoundment for vehicle owners
inflicted upon an unsuspecting public in Room 110 of Chicago's
"Drug-War Forfeiture Center" at 400 W. Superior?

These remedies cannot succeed.

Even the successful implementation of all summit suggestions to stop
the killing and maiming, without drug policy change cannot succeed.

Actually, as the Rush summiteers demonstrated, leaders are willing to
do just about anything to stop the gun violence that's killing
kids--anything but decriminalize drugs, legalize drugs, take the
profit out of the illicit-drug business or end the drug war.

James E. Gierach, Oak Lawn
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