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Summer of bloodshed as US murder rates rise

WASHINGTON—Dre, who turns 15 this month, has been unable to walk or talk since he was shot in the head, his plight a sad example of the toll taken by worsening US gun violence.

Deandra Yates, Dre’s mother, felt her world collapse in February 2014 when an unidentified youth—aged 17 or 18, she says—fired 22 shots into a birthday party her son was attending.

“They told me he would die or he’d be a vegetable but that’s not true,” she told AFP, reaching into her handbag for a photo of her son at a rehab center.

“If you put on music he dances in his wheelchair, he smiles at you, he looks at you.”

Her son’s assailant has never been apprehended and the incident is just one more such case in a country where 88 deaths a day, including suicides, are caused by firearms.

After years in decline, the pace of homicides is on the rise in some 30 big American cities.

As of Friday, homicides in the capital Washington were up 40.5 percent from a year ago at 111, police said.

The situation is also worrying in St Louis and Milwaukee, which saw the number of murders go up 60 percent and 76 percent respectively year-to-date from August 11 to August 31, The New York Times reported recently.

On September 2, Chicago recorded nine dead by gunfire—eight homicides and the accidental death of an infant—the most in a single day in a decade.

In Cleveland, police chief Calvin Williams exclaimed last Wednesday that “enough is enough” after a three-year-old died of a gunshot wound, just days after the fatal shooting of a 5-year-old. 

Other big cities worried by the rising murder curve are New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and New Orleans.

Experts have trouble explaining exactly what is happening and say different factors are at work that vary from city to city. Drugs, gang wars and the proliferation of arms are cited.

“In my state, Indiana, our gun laws are very lax, so a lot of people have access to them and they are flooding the streets with them,” said Yates.

“Teenagers would tell you they can get a gun for $280 and sell it, circulate it or use it.”

Conservative officials have recently pointed to a so-called Ferguson effect.

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