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A Wave of Mass Shootings Made Chicago's Bloody Year Even Worse

It's already been an historically bad year for gun violence in Chicago, and three mass shootings within 24 hours made things even uglier.

Over the past seven days, America witnessed six mass shootings that left seven dead and 22 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 389 dead and 1,485 injured. 

Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting over the same period: At about 6 AM Sunday, a street fight in Nikolaev, Ukraine, escalated into a shooting that left four injured. The fracas brought the continent's mass shooting deaths so far this year up 53 dead and 169 injured. 

All of America's latest mass shootings followed common national patterns. But the first three incidents of the week all hit Chicago, Illinois, within the span of just 24 hours, making an already-historic year for gun violence there even more brutal. Within the span of just 30 minutes last Friday afternoon, two mass shootings on the streets of the city left a total of six people injured and two dead. And at about 12:40 PM Saturday, a suspected robbery gone wrong at a reputed drug house left four dead and one injured—the deadliest mass shooting in the city this year.   

The remainder of the week was mercifully silent for Chicago, if not the rest of America. Later on Saturday, at about 10:30 PM, a shooting at a nightspot in Charlotte, North Carolina, left four injured. At about 12:45 AM Monday, a shooting at a cafe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, left eight injured. And finally, after several days of relative piece, a shooting at a nightspot in Birmingham, Alabama, early Friday morning killed one and injured three.  

We can only hope Chicago's tragic week is the coda for what has been a uniquely terrible year for the city. VICE has identified some 35 mass shootings there in 2016 to date (nearly a tenth of the total number of incidents nationwide), but more broadly almost 4,300 people have been shot in Chicago since the start of the year. That's already over 1,200 more shooting victims compared to the total from 2015. In fact, this year is set to be the deadliest for the city in terms of gun violence in decades, continuing a crime spike that runs counter to nationwide trends. Chicago's shooting rate is not necessarily the highest per capita in the nation, but this rapid upward trend is worrisome at best.

Most of this violence, as local officials like Mayor Rahm Emanuel often point out, is clustered into just a few neighborhoods and often perpetrated by repeat offenders with illegal firearms. The ridiculously high local gun murder rate—as high as one in 1,000 residents in some areas—and the lack of trust in or effectiveness on the part of a police force that has severely compromised its own legitimacy in local eyes contribute to a spiraling culture of violence. 

Over the years, gun violence experts have identified a number of programs that, in case studies in Chicago and elsewhere, have had some effect reducing gun crimes in hard-hit urban centers. These programs range from targeted enforcements against key offenders and illegal guns to community-based interventions to change norms of violence and get people the social services they need.

Unfortunately, as gun policy experts have expressed to VICE in the past, these programs are not necessarily well known or funded, and need more study for us to better grasp how they can be most useful. Even more unfortunately, Chicago will likely be left to experiment with possible solutions on its own in the coming year. The nascent Trump administration, extolling a law-and-order message that suggests places like Chicago just need more cops, has been rhetorically hostile to any new form of gun control—and that probably includes funding for local programs or research into alternative solutions to gun violence gone horribly out of control.

Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.