Editorial: Police fired 96 shots at Dexter Reed. Then 76 bullets decimated a family.

Chicago police recovered 76 casings after the Saturday night massacre in the 2000 block of West 52nd Street in Chicago. They did not recover the life of Ariana Molina, 9.

Nor did they prevent the sprayed bullets from an automatic weapon from wounding two young boys, ages 8 and 9.

Nor could they prevent the shooting of a 1-year-old baby, who may need surgery, nor the several adults wounded. And they couldn’t stop the many other adults and young people present from witnessing the kind of event that can and does scar people for life.

In essence, a gunman, as yet unknown (naturally), opened fire on folks gathered for Ariana’s aunt’s confirmation, the Tribune reported. Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, noting that this was no random occurrence, said, “Where’s the outrage?” but a few days have passed now and all we’ve had is the usual stock statements along with the hopes and prayers for a recovery that can never really happen, if the city is being honest with itself. One family had 11 members shot.

The number of casings is notable because it lands close to the number of shots fired by police when, during a traffic stop, they sent 96 shots in the direction of a Chicagoan who had shot at police first. In that case, the number of bullets has received far more attention, especially from those focused on police reform. Ninety-six shots has appeared in headlines at home and abroad. The 76 shots? Not so much.

That’s how it goes in today’s upside-down Chicago. Police responding defensively, if that’s the word, are getting more media and political scrutiny than gangbangers unloading their weapons on innocent little kids.

Why? Progressive forces are in power at City Hall, and anyone railing at police knows they will have a lot of immediate company when it comes to expressing the preferred narrative. It’s the easiest kind of outrage for them to express. The necessary conversation after what happened on West 52nd Street is much more challenging for progressives, since it reflects the clear but often unspoken reality that Chicago’s gang problem is spiraling out of control. Snelling knows that all too well, but his “Where is the outrage?” didn’t get a lot of traction. He probably knew it would not.

It’s not that those in power don’t care about those kids; we know they do. Plenty of folks in City Hall, all the way up to the top, will have been deeply shocked and distressed by these deaths. No question. It’s that they just don’t know what to say to fit within the ideological guidelines from which it is demonstrably so hard for them to break out. As a result, they find themselves stuck for the right words and the city then moves on to the next news cycle. There is, of course, a paradox at work here: the more often these gang-related shootings take place, the less surprising they seem and the less attention flows their way.

But when you have power, as progressives do, there is a moral imperative to have that conversation, as difficult as it may be and even if it may lead to uncomfortable places. You cannot logically express outrage at casings from police bullets and ignore the horrors of a yet-worse gunfight coming just weeks later, splaying bullets at multiple Chicagoans, at a confirmation celebration, for goodness’ sake.

We’re always reluctant to make this kind of argument, common on right-wing websites, because we happen to think that police should be held accountable. We think the Dexter Reed shooting, which posed many reasonable questions, merits a full and fair investigation.

We’ll go even further than that: When young people read about, or witness, the kind of shootout that happened in the Reed case, it only makes its criminal replication the more likely. And while we fully understand the police policy of continuing to shoot until the officers believe the threat has been neutralized, it still sets the example of scores of bullets flying everywhere.

Plenty of teenagers in Humboldt Park sitting in their family homes, wondering about what this city holds for them, will have heard those 96 shots from the police. And that’s not to absolve the man who shot first from responsibility. Not at all. In this city, we all have to be able to hold that many things can be true at once.

But there is a difference between an adult responsible for his actions and little kids who had done nothing whatsoever, and we don’t need any inquiry or consent decree to reach that conclusion.

Chicago must fight with all its power against these illegal automatic guns. This is what has changed of late.

Even the most hardened gangster would probably not target a little kid directly, but when you are splaying bullets, precision is an unlikely result. We’ll also note that police were summoned to this shooting thanks to the clearly necessary ShotSpotter technology; we don’t know if that helped save the lives of these wounded kids, but we all can agree that the faster an ambulance arrives when a kid is shot, the better.

Whether it fits with progressive ideology’s focus on the root causes of crime or not, Chicago must fight with all its power against gangland culture. It’s killing far more Chicagoans than questionable policing ever will.

We cannot let political divisions or ideological polarization result in more death of Chicago’s greatest assets.

Its kids.

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