The Predators Among Us

University of Chicago student Max Lewis was commuting to school on the Green Line Elevated Train when a bullet tore into his spine. A good Samaritan nurtured and consoled him until the paramedics came. An active and vibrant twenty-year-old, Lewis could only move his eyes when he awoke in his hospital bed. And with that, he communicated that he wanted the plug pulled. He did not want to live as a vegetable. He was ready to greet death.

Another life in a long list of lives tragically snuffed out by a “stray” bullet on Chicago’s southside. The police have no idea from where the bullet was fired. But was it a stray bullet? Did someone target the Elevated train the way people have targeted airline pilots with lasers, hoping to blind them on their approach and witness a plane crash?

As I read the demographics of victims of Chicago’s gang violence, I wonder, as have others, if there are predators out there hunting people for sport the way game hunters wantonly kill for sport. There are simply too many women and children, too many innocents, on the victims list.

I stumbled upon this notion when, during the George Floyd riots, carloads of young blacks descended on my exurban community and smashed their way into the upscale shopping mall. Armed police stood in place as the vandals looted the stores and unnecessarily damaged showcases and fixtures while helping themselves to whatever they desired.

Having successfully looted the stores as police looked on, the vandals loaded up their vehicles and drove toward the freeway. As one car veered out of the shopping area, someone fired a random shot into a group of shoppers.

There was no reason for this. This was totally both a wanton and unnecessary act designed to inflict death or injury on some random shopper. As it turned out, a young black woman was hit in the arm by the bullet, and a local police officer ran over to comfort her and call the paramedics.

This was not a stray bullet. The shooter was not aiming at anyone in particular. He just saw a group of people and shot in their direction. Any victim would have sufficed. The young black woman was lucky in as much as her wound was not life-threatening, and she was quickly transported to an area hospital. Of course, the psychological trauma of the event will persist long after the flesh is healed.

Unlike the game hunter, the shooter did not bask in the glory of hitting the victim. The car in which he was seated sped off toward the freeway. Not only was the act reckless and without justification; it served no useful purpose. It was the senseless act of a predator engaged in human blood sport.

Regrettably, this leads us back to the University of Chicago student shot on the Green Line. Did someone shoot at the Elevated train just to do it?  

The tragedy of innocent bystanders, especially children, being shot in the midst or crossfire of gangland shootings is well documented. It is abhorrent but subject to explanation.

But how does one explain random sport shooting like shooting into a crowd of innocent shoppers, firing a random shot at a passing Elevated train, or attempting to shine a red laser beam into the eyes of a pilot making a landing approach?

Among us, there seem to be people hunting people for blood sport.

Assuredly, the way we as a community operate, the focus will not be on the psychodynamics of these killers, but on the availability of guns, as if guns shoot by themselves.  We do not want to deal with complex problems but to be assuaged by nostrums.

In the wake of a recent gang shooting at a laundromat in New York City, in which ten people were shot, most of them bystanders, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York, Eric Adams, held a press conference to denounce guns. Guns did not drive themselves to Queens and open fire by themselves.

The culture of violence, the impact of hopelessness and despair that sustain gang cultures were not addressed. We are incapable of dealing with intricate and complex root causes, so our political figures placate us with platitudes.

In our cities exists a culture of violence, and we ignore it at our peril, for we are all potential victims. It will not be solved by seeing it as a gun problem while ignoring the social forces that have produced this culture.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.

Image: Pixabay

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