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Davis discusses Chicago murders … and Trump
By Mike Sandrolini
PROVISO | A high number of murders in Chicago and Donald Trump’s election are two topics that have been front and center in the news over the past year. Sadly, 7th District U.S. Rep. Danny Davis has been directly affected by last year’s record murder rate, and he’ll be on the front lines this year as a member of the Democratic Party when Trump begins his presidential term along with GOP majorities in both the House and Senate. Davis discussed both issues in a recent interview with the West Suburban Journal.
The 762 homicides committed in the City of Chicago during 2016 were the most since 1996 (796) and was higher than Los Angeles (294) and New York (334) combined. The all-time record for the number of murders in Chicago occurred in 1974 (970). However, last year’s figure was particularly alarming because the murder rate spiked from 492 in 2015 and 432 in 2014.
In addition to the number of homicides, there were 4,331 shooting victims resulting from 3,550 shooting incidents. The pain of losing a loved one through violence is something that Davis experienced just two months ago. His 15-year-old grandson, Javon Wilson, was fatally shot in his Englewood home in November after authorities said two teen-age friends of the victim’s brother entered the house. An argument ensued over a pair of basketball shoes, and one of the teens shot Wilson in the head, prosecutors said. The two teens were charged with first-degree murder. As heart-breaking as that has been for Davis, the congressman also lost a friend and former co-worker, Ron Allen. Allen was one of Chicago’s 762 murder victims, as well.
“The Chicago Sun Times had this photographic description of all the victims, and on the second page, there was my grandson but there was also another gentleman on there—a fellow by the name of Ron Allen that I used to work with,” Davis noted.
“He was a 73-year-old businessman. Ron and I worked at the Post Office before he started his insurance agency.”
Davis, who’s been in the House 20 years and began his 11th term this month, said the presence of guns, and how prevalent they are in society, is a part of the problem.
“I don’t think we can deny that. I don’t think we can escape it,” he said. But he believes what’s driving the increase in the number of homicides centers around poverty and learned behavior that are directly affecting youths. I think it’s attitudinal,” he said.
“I noticed that people drive very aggressively on the freeways, and if somebody’s trying to change lanes, other than maybe letting up a little bit so that person can get in, people (instead) drive to make sure that they can’t get in.”
“I think poverty has a big and profound impact on youth development,” he continued.
“It used to be that you wouldn’t think of actually killing somebody, or running the risk of having killed somebody. People learn what they live,” he added.
“And if people live in a violent environment, they practice violence. If they learn other forms of behavior, there’s a tendency to practice that. We need somehow or another to put more emphasis, I think, on teaching people that you can survive and you don’t have to have a gun inside your coat pocket.”
Davis recalled standing in line at a store one recent evening, and wondering if an argument between two women would escalate. “I was purchasing something actually for my grandchildren,” he said.
“Two ladies got into a terrible argument. One kind of bumped up against the other and I was standing there thinking, ‘What if somebody pulls out a gun and starts shooting?’ And it’s very possible that they might because they can certainly have one. Our conceal carry laws that the Supreme Court has said you can do. I think we need to reevaluate in a big way what it is that is being taught to our children. I know we put as much emphasis on technology as we can, but if you can’t learn civility, then you’re missing out on a part of what education can be.”
Hillary Clinton won Illinois with nearly 56 percent of the vote state-wide, and in Cook County, the Democratic presidential candidate trounced Donald Trump, garnering nearly 74 percent of the vote. Clinton also won the popular vote nationwide by over 2.8 million votes. Yet Trump will take the oath of office next Friday after winning the Electoral College with 304 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 227. It marks the fifth time in U.S. history that a candidate has won the presidency despite not winning the popular vote (the most recent example was the 2000 George W. Bush vs. Al Gore race).
Davis realizes there’s plenty of trepidation, anxiety and fear surrounding a Trump presidency. Davis, though, is of the opinion that Trump will “be more civil than many think” and will dial down his rhetoric, which was often bombastic during the campaign.
As an example, Davis pointed out that Trump called him and offered his condolences after the death of his grandson. “We talk about my grandson being killed,” he said. “Some people would probably find it to be somewhat unusual that President-elect Trump did call me during that time period, and I guess when asked if I was a little surprised (he did), I’d probably say yes, and no.”
“I think that President-elect Trump is going to modify marginally and change some of the verbiage that he is known for using. I don’t expect him to change it totally, but I do think the (Congressional) leadership sets the pace, and if you’re in a position where people are expecting certain things of you, you try to comply with some of those expectations. We’re not going to be as civil, as there have been times where we have had differences relative to public policy decision-making, so it won’t be as easy in some instances as it has been. But I think we’re going to come through this period. What I’m hoping is that our country does have a more civil approach to governance (other) than what we find in many other places throughout the world. I would hope that we don’t go backward in terms of changing any of those processes that have been established.”
Davis said he refuses to believe that the country is going to “go as far back as some people believe that it might” under a Trump administration. “Our country has withstood many challenges,” he said.
“I think we will go through this period and come out of it OK. There’s going to be so many people involved in helping to keep the equation somewhat balanced. And so the balance is based upon involvement and participation. If everybody’s involved and you’ve got to give and take, push and pull, I think our country will remain on balance, and decision-making is going to be where the majority of the people are. It will not veer so much to the right or so much to the left that America becomes anything other than what the struggle will produce. That is, I think, what our democracy looks forward to. I think that’s what we’ll get.”