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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

It's hard to imagine anything more difficult than attending your own child's funeral. Yesterday, Shirley Chambers did that for the fourth time.

INSKEEP: In the mid-1990s, the Chicago woman lost a child to gunfire. A few years later in 2000, a daughter and a son were shot to death months apart.

MONTAGNE: Yesterday, Chambers buried her last surviving child. The funeral came amid a nationwide debate over gun violence, as we'll hear in this part of the program.

Our coverage begins with NPR's Cheryl Corley.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) What a friend we have in Jesus...

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Nearly 500 people filled the pews, the choir lofts and hallways of St. Luke Church of God in Christ for 33-year-old Ronnie Chambers' funeral. The aspiring music producer died January 26th. When Shirley Chambers walked up to the casket to look down on her son, she collapsed. Family helped her back to her seat where she listened as many - including Willie Fleming - stepped forward to eulogize her son.

WILLIE FLEMING: He embodied what everybody in this room should be doing. He reached back to help someone else.

CORLEY: Fifty-four-year-old Shirley Chambers works at a popular Chicago hotdog chain. She raised her children in the Cabrini Green public housing hi-rises, which have since been torn down. Her son Carlos was 18 when he was shot by a classmate outside of school in 1995. Her daughter LaToya was 15 when she was shot in a Cabrini Green lobby more than a decade ago.

SHIRLEY CHAMBERS: And then a little guy was trying to shoot someone else, then he shot LaToya. And then a couple of months later, Jerome was murdered.

CORLEY: Jerome was 23.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RICKI LAKE SHOW")

RICKI LAKE: Please welcome Scooby.

CORLEY: Last December, Ronnie Chambers, whose nickname was Scooby, appeared on the Ricki Lake talk show. He said he was a former gang member, and the murders of his three siblings made him decide to change his life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RICKI LAKE SHOW")

RONNIE CHAMBERS: That right there, you know, me in and out of jail, that let me know I had to do something different.

CORLEY: Chambers began mentoring young men interested in rapping, working to help them stay away from gangs. His mother, who had been fearful for her son, was ecstatic about his change and his TV debut.

CHAMBERS: And I started screaming, there goes my baby. There goes my baby. I was excited to see him come out there. He looked so sweet and just, like, ooh, that boy's so smart.

CORLEY: A month later, her son would be dead, shot in the head while he sat in a car on the city's West Side, returning from an event for the young rapper and gang member who appeared with him on the television show.

CHAMBERS: It's ridiculous. It's happening too much - every single day.

CORLEY: Chicago saw a flurry of gang-related violence in January, with more than 40 homicides. In addition to Chambers, the death of 15-year-old high school student Haidya Pendleton also made news headlines.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says his officers are seizing plenty of firearms. He and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also recently announced the reassignment of 200 police officers to patrol work. The president is now traveling the country, pushing for gun-related reforms. Shirley Chambers says she just wants a coordinated effort.

CHAMBERS: It's too much out of control now. They've got to get stiffer penalties for these guys that go out here and murder people for no reason. The police can't do it by themselves. The president can't do it by himself. The mayor cannot do it by himself. We've got to do it all together. We all we have to work together.

CORLEY: Police have made no arrests in the Ronnie Chambers case, and Shirley Chambers says she can't break down because she's lost four children. She says she needs to speak out so no parent will have to experience what she has.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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