WASHINGTON | Provoked by continued gun deaths and shootings in Chicago, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus said Thursday they would gather in the city for an "emergency" summit on urban violence.
Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush said in a news conference at the Capitol that the intent is to bring together national and local minds to address the causes of shootings that have become a focus of the national gun debate.
But Rush said participants also will look beyond Chicago to other urban centers besieged by gun violence. The announcement comes after a Fourth of July weekend in which 11 people were shot to death in Chicago and several dozen more were wounded.
The members say they will hold the summit on the Chicago State University campus on July 25 and 26 and the event is open to the public.
"We must not stand silent in the wake of all this this violence that occurs not only in Chicago, but in every major urban area in this nation," Rush said.
Sarah Hamilton, spokeswoman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, did not know if an invitation had been extended yet to Emanuel to participate.
No immediate solutions were proposed, but the U.S. House members said those who come from other parts of the country could share what they have done in the wake of eruptions of violence.
Michigan Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he plans to bring Detroit leaders to the event to emphasize that the problem stretches beyond Chicago.
Chicago has become a focus of the national gun debate after homicides climbed above 500 last year and as the state of Illinois this week joined all other states in allowing public possession of concealed guns.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the summit is the first step in doing something about Chicago's gun violence "because the present strategy of waiting for young people to drop out of school, join a gang, mess up, get caught and then get into a bidding war with slogans and sounds bites as to how much time they are going to serve" has led to the largest incarcerated population than any other country.
Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., linked the violence to unemployment, particularly in the black community. The youth unemployment rate is the highest it's been since World War II, he said, with 72 percent of Illinois' teenagers ages 16 to 19 unemployed, Davis said, citing statistics from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
Nationally the unemployment rate for African-American teenagers is 43.6 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by Davis.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said the black caucus would be issuing principles on gun violence that would go beyond calling for background checks and bans on certain weapons.
She said the principles also talk about intervention in the lives of young people, emphasizing "if we don't do something we will eliminate populations of youth in this country."
"The many mothers who mourn over caskets should move us to do something," she said.