A burst of shootings over the weekend left 12 people dead and dozens more wounded in Chicago, the latest evidence of runaway gun violence in the third largest US city.
Police blamed much of the carnage on gangs, which run rampant in some of the city's poorest and predominantly minority neighborhoods on the west and south sides.
At one point, 40 people were shot in the span of seven hours, according to a tally compiled by the Chicago Tribune, with bystanders as well as alleged gang members among the casualties.
Police said in some of the incidents shooters sprayed bullets indiscriminately into large groups in rival territories, where people had gathered for outdoor events.
In all, 66 people were shot between Friday evening and Sunday night, according to the official police tally.
"What we saw this weekend, it just rips at everything that I believe in," said Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, "because I know, as a city and as a neighborhood, we can do better."
Authorities emphasized that the weekend shootings stood in contrast to a general decline in gun violence, where city figures show shootings down 30 percent and murders down 25 percent, compared to the same time last year. Nevertheless, Chicago's official murder count, at more than 320 killings so far this year, was the highest in the country and far eclipsed those of America's two largest cities -- New York and Los Angeles.
The police chief emphasized an oft-repeated criticism by city officials that repeat gun offenders receive sentences that are too short and are able to quickly return to the streets to commit more crimes -- believing they will not face serious consequences.
"They have a moral responsibility to speak up, so there could be legal accountability for those actions," Emanuel said. Police arrested 46 people over the weekend for gun-related offenses and seized 60 firearms, adding to the total of 5,600 firearms seized in the city to date.
Officials say lax gun laws in neighboring states allow traffickers to purchase weapons and illegally smuggle them into Chicago. Federal authorities have created a special task force to target repeat gun offenders and traffickers.
The gun violence has been the subject of two high-profile protests this summer, as demonstrators temporarily blocked major expressways to demand more economic investment and job opportunities in poor communities. The latest spasm of bloodshed occurred at the same time as the famed Lollapalooza music festival, which was not affected by the violence, police said.
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