To Stop the Shooting, Lupe Cruz Gets Between the People with the Guns

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Conversations about gun reform are often galvanized by catastrophic mass shootings. But gun violence mostly unfolds as a matter of awful routine: domestic-partner homicides, suicides, and shootings between people who know each other are everyday occurrences. “All this [talk of] legislation, that doesn’t mean anything for us,” Lupe Cruz says, in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. “Most of the guns in this community are stolen. This is the real world.”

A onetime gang member, Cruz mediated disputes informally for years before being recruited by an organization called Cure Violence. Their trained mediators, or “interrupters,” will show up after shootings or at funerals, and talk down the people who are likely to retaliate. Cruz now leads Cure Violence projects in Latin America and elsewhere. But she still mediates in her old neighborhood, where the stakes are very high: if her intervention doesn’t work, someone she knows may get shot—maybe right in front of her, which is what happened in November. She is getting tired and would like to “pass on the torch,” she tells the reporter Caroline Lester. But they need her in Little Village.

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