May 7th, 2009
09:30 PM ET

Saving Chicago's kids

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from David Mattingly on the violence in Chicago on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

A memorial honoring the children victimized by the violence in Chicago.

A memorial honoring the children victimized by the violence in Chicago.

David Mattingly | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

So often we see grieving communities reacting to Chicago's youth violence by targeting guns. There have been marches protesting gun shops and legislation filed aimed at tougher background checks for gun buyers. But veterans of the fight against the killing are starting to change their tactics. They are looking past the guns and focusing on the shooters.

Ron Holt, whose son Blair was shot and killed two years ago, was a key lobbyist pushing for a tougher Illinois gun law. He failed by five votes. Today he says he is seeing success by going straight to the the would-be gangbangers.

Holt now joins other men in the group called CeaseFire. Groups go out onto the street and try to settle conflicts and diffuse confrontations before they turn violent. Holt says it's working. He's probably helping save more young lives than he did in the state legislature.

Filed under: Chicago Killings • David Mattingly • Gun Violence
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Donald Callender

    The question I hear often in my circles is what is the race of the children who are killed? If the children are black and hispanic, that's the reason the gun legislation proposed by Ron Holt failed by five votes.My take on this is if these were mainly white kids, not only would the legislation pass, but the city of Chicago would be turned upside down.

    May 8, 2009 at 6:11 am |
  2. Nosa

    Where do this kids get this guns from? guns don’t kill people, people use guns to kill people, the key word is here is people and the police authorities should go after these kids and when they are linked to any gang, the gang should be clean out period.

    May 8, 2009 at 6:03 am |
  3. Jason

    It appears that no matter where the violence is centralized that the biggest contributing factor to teen on teen violence is born from a severe lack of parenting. This is not directed at the victims in any way due to the fact that there are no criteria to being a victim.
    Enforce a curfew! Put a ban on large groups of minors! Almost every mall in the Cincinnati area had been plagued with teen violence and it wasn't until they banned groups of teens larger than three personnel did the violence drop.
    There is not a singular answer to this problem. It must be a united effort of citizens working cooperatively with local police agencies and creating well built and morally founded community organizations. If the "parents" choose to pass the buck of raising their kids to the community then the community has no choice, for the sake of all the children, to step up and guide these kids.

    May 8, 2009 at 5:52 am |
  4. Beatriz

    More and more of America's children of color are lost everyday to violence and guns. The media, health community and national resources that has been given to go to the flu should go to this violence. We are losing focus of a true American tragedy and everyday reality in ER rooms. We should no longer waste time...we are losing precious youth! This is a national crisis and of pandemic porportions in many urban communities that should have a urget response as has been given to the flu.

    May 8, 2009 at 3:21 am |
  5. E Hughes

    Thank God for this man and I hope he is successful in finding closure, in losing his son and helping to save other lives. It is indeed, true, that the murderers of children are other children. Generally kids from low income families whose mothers often work. Without two parents in the home the children lack supervision and are drawn into gangs for economic reasons. Childhood rivalries are DEADLY in chicago. There is simply a lack of reverence for life and that value must be instilled in children who live there at a YOUNGER age. There is so much poverty, lack of job s, and HARDSHIP that apathy runs rampant. I grew up in Chicago, but moved away when my oldest son was 10 years old. That was eight years ago. He saw your report last night on May 6, 2009 and cried, then thanked me for saving his life in moving away. Because of what I've seen in Chicago, I am a very strict parent, even though I live in a city with very little [serious] crime (there are only five murders per year in this city). Living in Chicago has left an ineffaceable impression on my mind and heart. The lifespan today for the children remaining there is very short. City life is perilious, and those who choose NOT to join gangs are the targets. It is not by accident that these are the victims. The rule is, if you are a young black male and you don't join a gang, one of the gang members will kill you. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    – E. Hughes

    May 8, 2009 at 3:08 am |
  6. Michelle

    Hello Everyone,

    This is really sad. I am sitting here watching Anderson Cooper
    in Los Angeles. What most people don't know is that these
    shootings are Gang Initiations, they don't have to know the
    victim. The leader of the Gang could tell the young Gang
    Banger to go kill a child, old lady or drive by a crowd of people
    and shoot to earn there stripes. This is how they do it in Los
    Angeles. I beleive the government can handle it if they really
    wanted to. I really would like to speak on something so deep
    that the American people could not handle it or they would be
    in denial. Well so much for that. Good buy

    May 8, 2009 at 2:07 am |
  7. Mandy

    What do all these areas of the country with out of control crime have in common? – They're all run by Democrats. That's the one constant they all have in common and the lax social values of liberals is the sole reason for the out of control violence. Even Obama's district was, and still is, a hell hole. Too bad you guys never did your job to report on the poor job he did in his own district. Wonder what makes you think he's going to make our country better when he couldn't even fix problems in his own district???

    By the way, politicians keep pointing to smokers and obesity as causing medical costs to skyrocket, yet no one ever metions the astronomical costs (often to the taxpayers) for these usually Medicaid covered victims of street violence. Why don't you start reporting on that cost instead of hiding it from the public?

    May 8, 2009 at 2:01 am |
  8. Mary in Wahington, DC

    The "200 ton elephant in the room" is the fact that the vast majority of the children dying due to gun violence and most of the perpertrators are Black boys and young men. It would be GREAT , Anderson, if you could be the one to actually be brave enough to bring the social dilema of Black males living in underserved communities to light.

    For over 16 years now, I have worked on the streets of Washington, DC literally fighting on behalf of our beautiful men and boys who are literally dying...under educated, under employed, lacking role models, submerged in a culture of homophobia leaving those who identify as Gay to choose death rather than life. The list goes on. Many of these boys are victims of unreported sexaual abuse, molestaion, incest and neglect. They are the invisible ones...so...even as you speak of the violence in Chicago, there is no mention of "Black boys"...invisible.

    Please, Anderson, open up this much needed discussion. PLEASE.

    Much LOVE and PEACE to you! I ABSOLUTELY ADORE your passion, honesty and willingness to go where other journalists fear to tread.



    May 8, 2009 at 2:00 am |
  9. Abdoulaye

    Violence and youth killing have been rampant and tragic in several cities in the US for some time now. That is why it infuriates me that this issue is only talked about on TV when a celebrity (or his/her family) becomes a victim of it. This problem needs to become a priority for each and everyone of us, and to the media, i think your professional conscience should hold you accountable for constantly covering this issue.


    Thank you.

    May 8, 2009 at 12:09 am |
  10. Leslie Achtymichuk

    Could you please send the name and the hospital of the doctor that was interviewed in the Chicago ER. Would like to contact. Thanks
    Leslie, Vancouver, BC

    May 8, 2009 at 12:08 am |
  11. sandie

    I can tell you why kids in Chicago are being shot. As somone who was heavly into drugs I can tell you I never bought drugs in Chicago from an adult it ws always a child with a gun. I am now clean for 15 years but as someone who grew up in Chicago I know that this has been an ongoing problem. May be you should invesigate the fact that so many children are into this lifestyle even though they do not belong to gangs.

    May 8, 2009 at 12:06 am |
  12. wayne page

    glad we Canadians don't have your gun problems

    May 8, 2009 at 12:01 am |
  13. John

    I think the reason the violence is out of control in Chicago, is the lack of support for the police. The citizens don't respect the police, the politicians don't support the police, bowing to pressure from the community. The Department heads have politically appointed positions, so they go with City Hall. The officers on the street feel that anything they do(Pro-actively) will be criticized by all. Its not worth risking your job, career, pension and life for people who don't appreciate it and won't back you. The officers drive by the groups of gang members on the street without stopping. It doesn't take the bad guys long to figure out that they can carry their guns on the street, because the police are simply driving around. The majority of officers want to "do the right thing", but don't want to lose their jobs as a "political scapegoat". A sacrafice to the community or media.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:58 pm |
  14. moses

    These kids are running wild!!! all there leadership has been imprisoned,its nothing but young kids running the blocks that the older gangbangers had kept in line for years,Wild west chicago!!!

    May 7, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  15. Sean Cochran

    I love my home State of Illinois but we are always in the spotlight for bad things. Rod B., Drew P., Murder Capital for school age children (Chicago).

    Illinois is more than just a collection of misfits!!

    May 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  16. Lisa Wilson

    I have an idea why our kids are in so much trouble here in Chicago. I am a Chicago public school teacher in a gang infested neighborhood and our school doesn't work hard enough to holistically address kids' needs. CPS treats kids like animals and gets them ready for prison. We have one of the shortest school days in the nation 9:00am – 2:45pm. It's no wonder they are in so much danger– they have nothing to do while the rest of the nation is still in school. We need to let them be kids. My school doesn't give any breaks or recess, let them socialize at all during the day. They are so pent up that when they let go the results are deadly. CPS needs a MAJOR overhaul and needs to get innovative.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:48 pm |
  17. Tyler from San Diego

    Until the whole culture of gangs and rappers is deglamorized, nothing is going to change. The best thing that could have happened already has, Obama as president. Maybe this kids won't think being illiterate, pants around your ankles, and carrying a gun isn't as cool as it use to be.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  18. elaine

    find it hard to believe that with 36 murders in chicago of teen-agers,
    that not one eye-witness came forward- when the community breaks
    its silence, crime will drop. the innercity communities must begin to
    work with the police & stop hiding these criminals.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  19. lisa maysonet

    Isn't that amazing! the smart ones (legislation) are'nt so smart.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  20. Tonya

    Every urban city has a shameful list of of children dying from violent acts usually by another child. I don't know what will wake us up and realize that this is a CRISIS. I appreciate AC360 for informing the public that this is our CHILDREN'S FUTURE unless we start acting like we give a damn about them and get involved. If there are people out there that really think our children are our future- PLEASE STAND UP.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  21. Lori

    There is a war in the streets of Chicago. Send in the National Guard and search all the homes for weapons and guns. How many children need to be killed before something drastic is done?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  22. Paul

    What is gun violence? Violence committed with a gun. Do we have knife violence? Baseball bat violence? How about we call violence what it is...violence. I've never seen a gun, knife of baseball bat act violent.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  23. Moore


    I am a teacher in Chicago. I feel that a major part of the violence in the city stems from lack of parental involvement in rearing children. The children are not only unsupervised for major parts of their lives but they are angry because of it. I started teaching about seventeen years ago and in the last ten years I have never encountered such angry children. Along with the anger they have no way to express that anger other than to lash out violently toward others. Additionally, when students feel that they have been wronged in some way, they don't know how to solve their problems with words rather than violence; they have trouble expressing themselves verbally. Much of the problems has been left to the schools to 'solve' or contend with but the problems start well before the children ever enter a classroom. Teachers are left powerless to manage students behaviors. More counseling needs to be provided to parents before they leave the hospital with their babies not when the child has imprinted for five years. Now that the children are violent though, they need to be taught how to solve their problems without turning toward violence. Lastly, make parents responsible for their children! You should not be able to raise a 'messed up' child and then release him/her on the rest of the world.

    May 7, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  24. Paul

    Concerning the Chicago crimes, notice how they took the opportunity to demonize the AK47. I bet the individual who used it was a thug who would not legally qualify to own a gun in the first place. Want to reduce crime? Put more guns in the hands of LAW ABIDING CITIZENS. That's right, you heard me...more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens so they can protect themselves like that man just yesterday from College Park, Atlanta. If he did not have a gun, more than ten people would be dead. If you have not heard the story:

    House party, two masked gunmen stormed in, separated the men from women, asked for their wallets and cell phones, perp ask another if the had enough bullets, perp commenced to begin raping the women, victim with gun took out the perp holding the men, then kicked the door in and saved the women. The hero neutralize two of the perps, the third got away but cops are confident they will find him.

    So...two bad guys dead in the act of commiting a violent crime or would you prefer 10+ good people minding their own business?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  25. JC-Los Angeles

    How about asking President Obama his thoughts on the violence in his home town?

    If he couldn't clean up Chicago, it's violent youths or the corrupt Chicago Democratic political machine, how is he going to clean up America?

    May 7, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  26. Chris Monfort

    Well it seems gun control still doesn't work, Chicago is another city that refuses to believe that taking guns away from/strictly limiting guns from law abiding citizens makes the problem worse. What is better than an unarmed public for criminals to take advantage of. Gun control "making victims one law at a time"

    May 7, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  27. Alex Locario\ Belize

    It is so sad to see so many young, intelligent black men that are full of potential being loss to violence. Parents an elders don't be afraid to take back such a wonderful city.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  28. Greg

    These parts wouldn't be crying if they spent more time being with there kids and trying to keep them in control. I mean honestly where does a 15 year old get a gun and has enough stupidity to use it bad parenting is the cause of this

    May 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  29. mr, serge leduc

    hi, in canada we dont need those gun's, if you want to get the problem solve get those gun out of the street and make then illegal, maybe you get less gunshot, this is crazy!!!, come in montreal and check from yourself!!!, we dont want ever never gun here!!!

    May 7, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  30. Manuel V.

    I can't believe the amount of violence that is going on, but the fact that nobody in power is doing anything to help is the saddest part.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  31. Mike Hawkins

    Isn't Chicago the poster city for gun control advocates? It looks like all the good folk are run over by armed hoodlums – doesn't appear to be a good system. Would love your thoughts on that.

    Thank you,

    Mike Hawkins

    May 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  32. Jesus, Lompoc, California

    I think that Illinois and the city of Chicago are not doing enough to stop the violence. I bet if just one person that was not a minority was shot, police would be going through gang territory, looking for gangsters, there would be riots, and the streets would be flooded with protesters. But no, all of them have been minorities because most of them occur on the poorer part of the city, where most of the minorities live. I can't believe that 36 minorities can't even make up for one majority. How many minorities are going to be killed before someone does something. I think that much more needs to be done.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  33. Karen Laing

    I applaud his courage and match it with my own steadfast hopefulness that one day similar progress will be evidenced in the ending of the undeclared civil war between youth and police in Kingston, Jamaica, beloved land of my birth.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  34. louis

    The adult populatioin is the source of a majority of the violence among the young no matter what city the live in.

    People cannot soley blaim all the violence on the younger generation.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  35. Jesus Medina, Lompoc, California

    I think that Illinois and the city of Chicago are not doing enough to stop the violence. I bet if just one person that was not a minority was shot, police would be going through gang territory, looking for gangsters, there would be riots, and the streets would be flooded with rioters. But no, all of them have been minorities because most of them occur on the poorer part of the city, where most of the minorities live. I think that much more needs to be done.

    May 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  36. Mike in NYC

    It makes sense to go after the criminals instead of the weapons. There's no point in making things more difficult for responsible gun owners, unless your real aim is to disarm the general public. Criminals will always be able to obtain weapons, since by definition they're outside the law.

    BTW, the casualties here are not "kids" or "children," they're teenagers and young adults. Really, CNN, let's cut out this deceptive playing on the emotions. It's frankly offensive to my intelligence.

    May 7, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  37. Stephen R. Collier

    The kids that are killing the others are playing in an unwatched playground, where there are no consequences for their actions.

    1. Use the tactics that cleaned up NYC. Bust people for small offenses. This lets everyone know that the authorities are there watching and there will be consequences.

    2. (Got this idea from David Brin's "Earth"): Have everyone get their camcorders and recording devices out and use them constantly. Make it hard to get away with anything. People might not snitch, recorded info has a way of making it to the public eye.

    Virginia Beach

    May 7, 2009 at 9:39 pm |