Chicago does some soul-searching

As Sunday night crept (no doubt cautiously) to Monday morning, residents of a south Chicago neighborhood endured a firefight. They witnessed a tide of mayhem worthy of urban war zones worldwide. This is not how Chicago wants to build its reputation as a global city. So-called weapons wagons — SUVs loaded with lockers of rifles — delivered fresh throw-weight to cops who at times ran down streets toward the percussion of flying bullets. SWAT teams dressed in green walked the streets with regular officers dressed in blue. Overhead, a law enforcement helicopter circled in a futile attempt to quiet the rampage.

And that was but one among dozens of shooting scenes in Chicago over a weekend meant to celebrate this nation's birth. In the roughly 84 hours from 3:10 p.m. Thursday until 3:30 a.m. Monday, gunfire struck 82 people, 14 of them fatally. Both tallies include two boys shot by police: a 14-year-old who allegedly pointed a long-barreled .44-caliber revolver at officers, and a 16-year-old who — after first eluding cops who had responded to a report of shots fired — allegedly refused officers' instructions to drop a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun as he crawled out from beneath a car.

That's right, a 14-year-old wielding a .44-caliber revolver and a 16-year-old with a semiautomatic handgun.

The easy diagnosis, in many Chicagoans' eyes, is that the Chicago Police Department needs more officers. Maybe so. But that's asking for more dollars from a City Hall that is drowning in debt after decades in which politicians spent money Chicago couldn't realistically anticipate as revenue on costly obligations Chicago couldn't afford.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made eminent sense with his insistence Monday that "as a community we need to demand more of ourselves and our neighbors." Preaching personal responsibility — cajoling parents to exert more discipline, cajoling young people to steer clear of gangs, cajoling crime witnesses to help the police — isn't a popular pastime for many Chicago politicians. But Emanuel evidently has read about too many shootings and looked too many grieving parents in the eyes.

The mayor was similarly pointed after Easter weekend, when violence killed nine people and wounded another 36: "Every child deserves a childhood, regardless of where they live. But to do that, our city and community, the neighborhoods that make up this city, cannot live by a code of silence. They have to live by a moral code. Now I've read some of this, and I just want to say this, when some people go: 'Well, it's the weather.' It's whether you have values."

The next time you hear someone blame the cops for Chicago street violence, remember south Chicago: Police commanders threw virtually everything they had at that breakdown of civil society, and still the shooting roared.

If Chicago is to conquer this plague of violence, the solutions have to come from all of its citizens. If you're a parent or if you know one, that starts with you.