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Crossing Continents Tuesday, 11 May, 1999, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Chicago plans a farewell to arms
Chicago has one of the USA's most exhilarating skylines - but also the highest murder toll in the country

By Olenka Frenkiel


Listen to the programme in full


1998 was a bad year for Chicago. For the first time, the city had more murders than New York - or any other city in the United States. Over two-thirds of those killings were caused by firearms. But now the city's fighting back. In a multi-million dollar lawsuit that is the first of its kind, the city of Chicago has charged gun shops, distributors and dealers with causing a public nuisance by supplying guns to those they know will use them for crime.

Adopting the highly successful tactics that have knocked the tobacco industry for six, Chicago hopes to recover huge sums of money in damages and costs which, the city claims, has been spent on gun-related violence.

Olenka Frenkiel examines some of the firearms Chicago is trying to limit
In a journey that takes her from the office of Mayor Richard Daley to inner-city housing projects and suburban gun dealerships, Olenka talks to those who stand to win and lose in a case that some see as the most significant yet to be launched against the powerful gun lobby. She finds that despite the epidemic of gun-related killings, even the families of the victims are undecided on whether gun laws should be tightened - to take guns off the streets - or liberalised to allow law-abiding citizens to keep firearms at home for defence.

The Chicago Bulls play Milwaukee: have they slumped after Jordan's departure?
Also in the programme, how sports-mad Chicagoans are coping with an apparent slump in the city's sporting fortunes. Following the retirement of everyone's favourite athlete and basketball player, Michael Jordan, some feel that Chicago's reputation is quickly going downhill. We talk to some of the sports fans in the doldrums about their hopes and fears for the future, and examine why just why their devotion is so absolute; one says that the city is "a blue-collar town where we work hard and play hard."

And at a Saturday game, Olenka gets to share in the joy on the basketball court as the Chicago Bulls, playing against Milwaukee, savour their first victory in weeks.

Olenka gets a lift at the Second City Improvisational Comedy Club
And we dip into the world of improvisational comedy for beginners. Chicago is the home of "improv", and whilst in Britain we might look forward to a gentle evening class in Holiday French or Batik, hundreds of ordinary city dwellers take regular courses in how to raise a laugh at a moment's notice. At the Second City comedy theatre, Olenka learns how to beat stage fright, hum her favourite vowel, and express her lustful feelings for a toaster.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Chicago Bulls vs Milawaukee, Chicago, April 1999
Listen in on the emotion and excitement of a Chicago Bulls game...
See also:

13 Nov 98 | Americas
16 Mar 99 | Americas
02 Apr 99 | Americas
15 Jan 99 | Sport
05 Jan 99 | Americas
Links to more Crossing Continents stories are at the foot of the page.


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