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Pulitzer Center Update June 14, 2013

Six Months After Newtown

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A hug. Image by Carlos Javier Ortiz. Guatemala, 2013.

“Too Young to Die” is a long-term exploration of the tragedy gun violence exacts on Chicago’s...

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Image by Carlos Javier Ortiz. Chicago, Illinois, 2013.

Six months ago today, a man broke into an elementary school in Connecticut and used a high-capacity rifle to kill twenty children and six adults there in the second-deadliest mass shooting on U.S. soil.

In the half-year since the Newtown shootings, people all over America – and the world – have grieved, talked, typed and argued. Heated dialogue ebbs in and out of the news, in sessions of Congress and on social media sites. We've debated science, motives, history, the Bill of Rights, armed guards in schools. The American public remains almost equally divided in its feelings on gun control measures; the Pew Research Center reported that as of May 2013, 50% of Americans favored more control over gun ownership while 48% wanted to protect gun rights.

The tragedy of Newtown is all too present in American cities like Chicago, where hundreds of children have died in the past few years as a result of gun violence. As the political debate over America's firearms rages on in Washington, two Pulitzer Center grantees are working to shine light on another gun-violence tragedy a little further west – this one both ongoing and underreported.

Photojournalist Carlos Javier Ortiz has spent the last six years focusing on youth affected by gun violence. His Pulitzer Center project is entitled "Chicago and Guatemala: Too Young to Die." Since 2006, he writes, more than 800 young people have been killed in Chicago's violent neighborhoods. Unfortunately Guatemala serves as a near-mirror to that brutality, "mimicking" the culture of American gun violence. Ortiz's harrowing photographs, featured on CBS Evening News in April, frame each step of the gun violence toll in the city – the crime scenes, vigils, grieving families, funerals and slow rehabilitations.

Also in Chicago, Rieke Havertz takes a deeper, longer, closer look at gun homicides in the city. According to NPR, Chicago has one of the highest homicide rates in the nation, with over 500 in 2012 alone. Havertz's project focuses heavily on gun acquisition and the economics of the gun trade. Where do shooters get their weapons? Many, she says, are from the German company Heckler & Koch, which "profits from an American society that values gun ownership."

Keep Newtown in your thoughts today. And remember that Chicago, too, is in mourning.

Graffiti in Humboldt Park on the West Side of Chicago where Latin and black gangs control the streets.  Image by Rieke Havertz. Chicago, 2013.

As the discussion about tougher gun laws gains momentum in the U.S. after mass shootings in Colorado...

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