When violence breaks out in certain neighborhoods of Chicago, more than just bodies pile up.
So, too, do psychological issues experienced by those who live in those neighborhoods and witness the carnage, particularly young people.
Here’s how one writer described the consequences of the post-traumatic stress disorder — “disrupted sleep, anxiety and fear, as well as reduced awareness and difficulty with concentration, thinking and memory, all of which impair cognitive functioning.”
Why does this happen?
“Exposure to gun violence floods a child’s body with stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) which independently undermine cognitive performance by compromising the function of the prefrontal cortex of the brain (the area of the brain that is most rapidly developing in adolescence). This portion of the brain is responsible for reflective self-regulation and sustained attention, thus inhibiting the child’s memory, ability to sustain concentration and brain development.”
What’s the result?
The affected child is “disorganized cognitively and emotionally,” and “prone to react” with “extreme helplessness, confusion, withdrawal, or rage.”
Those quotes come from a lawsuit filed in Chicago federal court, class-action litigation that characterizes child trauma victims as “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act and seeks to hold the state of Illinois liable for their psychological injuries.
It’s a bizarre lawsuit, a long-shot at best in terms of its ultimate success in court.
But U.S. Judge Joan Gottschall recently rejected a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. She speculated the “injunctions plaintiffs seek would appreciably diminish the rate of gun violence” in some Chicago neighborhoods.
Named as defendants in the litigation, which was filed in 2018, are the state of Illinois, the governor, the Illinois State Police and the state police director.
How are state officials responsible for the consequences of inner city violence to the children who are part of the class action? They didn’t prevent the violence that led to their trauma, and the lawsuit asks they be ordered to take steps to do so.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges the state failed “to adopt a reasonable accommodation” to the children’s disability, a violation of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) as well asthe Illinois Civil Rights Act.
The reasonable accommodation the defendants seek is the promulgation of rules and regulations on gun sales that would stop the flow of illegal guns into Chicago, where they are often used by criminals to kill and wound their victim and traumatize their victims’ friends and family members.
“The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable as gun violence in Chicago is at an epidemic level. Since Jan. 1, 2015, 2,231 persons have been killed in Chicago. 90 percent died by gun shots. During the same period, 7,971 persons were shot. About 80 percent of the homicide and shooting victims in Chicago are African-American. At least 20 percent of these shootings involve teenagers or younger children,” the lawsuit states.
Questions abound about the theory behind the litigation.
Law is about rights, wrongs and remedies, and there are many wrongs for which there are no legal remedies.
No doubt children exposed to violence in all its many forms suffer. But are they disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act just as individuals in wheelchairs or those suffering from serious diseases or visible physical shortcomings are?
Here’s another issue the lawsuit raises.
Society’s goal is to enforce the law and prevent the criminal element from harming their victims. But can that social goal be expanded into a legal duty to protect, making taxpayers financially liable for not preventing someone from being victimized by a criminal.
The lawsuit cites a clear problem that fuels the violence — Chicago-area gun dealers, all of whom are federally licensed. It contends that “40.4 percent of the ‘crime guns’ recovered on Chicago streets, from 2009 through 2016, were purchased” outside the city, principally from seven businesses operating in suburbs like Riverdale, Lansing and Melrose Park.
The lawsuit seeks a court order directing the state to impose a long list of rules and regulations aimed at halting the gun flow. They include background checks of store and gun show employees before they “handle and sell guns,” and video recording of gun purchases “to discourage traffickers and buyers” from using false identification or buying “multiple guns.”