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7 killed, 52 wounded in weekend gun violence in Chicago

CHICAGO -- Emotional reserves tapped by two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the nation has not yet grasped the violence that left an almost identical number of people wounded on the streets of Chicago.

The worst ever weekend of gun violence so far this year left seven people dead and an additional 52 people wounded in the third-largest American city, according to the Chicago Police Department.

Officers responded to a total of 32 shooting incidents throughout the weekend beginning Friday night, said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a Sunday afternoon press conference. The conference was held outside an entrance to the city's Douglas Park, where one of the weekend's multi-victim, multi-perpetrator shootings took place.

Conveying his condolences to the people of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio as well as the citizens of Chicago, Johnson said all have been "affected by a tragic level of violence within a society that's become immune to these types of shootings."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Justice Department are helping Chicago police investigate the weekend's gun violence, Johnson said. He added the violence could be related to a basketball tournament that took place earlier in the day. The violence broke out at night after most people had left the tournament.

People who live in "challenging communities" want police to be there, but it can be difficult when some people congregate late at night, Johnson said.

"We have to be mindful of their civil rights. So, if they're not committing a crime, all we can do is move them along. They're quite frankly resistant to it a lot of the time," said Johnson. "It's a game of chess. We pull them out, they come back."

Chicago police have posted photographs to both Facebook and Twitter of some of the legal and illegal guns officers have seized on the streets.

Semi-automatic firearms shoot one bullet per trigger squeeze, according to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. Automatic firearms — commonly referred to as "machine guns" — fire continuously with a single trigger pull until ammunition is depleted.

It is illegal for civilians in the United States to possess machine guns manufactured after 1986. Ownership of a machine gun made before then requires a federal permit and registration. In some cases, semi-automatic weapons can be modified to work automatically. It is illegal to modify the internal components of a semi-automatic rifle to make it fully auto.

"For $1,000 and an ankle bracelet you can walk out of jail after being arrested with military-grade assault weapons complete with armor-piercing bullets," Johnson said. "I can say that because we saw that yesterday." He added that the point is that people carry illegal guns "because there are no consequences."

Chicago police released a recording of the sound of gunshots heard this weekend in the city, which is home to nearly 3 million people.

Despite high numbers for the weekend, murders and shootings are down about 12% this year, said Johnson, who believes police strategies, community relationships and technologies have contributed to the double-digit reductions in gun violence that have taken place for the past three years.

Still there are system loopholes that need to be fixed with common-sense solutions agreed upon by the police, the courts and the community, he said.

Johnson, who became a minor sensation for his deeply felt remarks delivered beneath the park's sun-dappled trees, noted the potential hurdle involved: "What really infuriates me is we have the power to do something about it, I just don't know if we have the will to do it."

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