Thursday, August 18

Column: Highland Park parade tragedy ups the nation’s body count


Once known for the eclectic sounds emanating every summer from Ravinia Festival, Highland Park now will be forever etched in the growing pantheon of mass shootings in the U.S.

This after the carnage and chaos allegedly unleashed by a locally grown rooftop sniper as the city’s Fourth of July parade got underway.

If we didn’t believe beforehand, we know it now: If it can happen in Highland Park, it can happen anywhere, even on a day dedicated to marking the nation’s independence.

Like what occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, up Sheridan Road from Lake County, where five people were shot Fourth of July night, with one fatally; or in Sacramento, the California capital, where five were shot, and one killed Fourth of July morning.

Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, could have been foreign cities experiencing mass shootings the past months. Now Highland Park, the once-peaceful tony North Shore town, has much in common with these national outposts.

As it has with the city of Chicago. Another long holiday weekend of frenzied gun violence in the big city ended with 71 people shot, and eight killed.

The Highland Park body count so far is seven people were killed while families casually waited along the Central Avenue route — now a crime scene — for the city’s first summer parade since the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the dead, dozens of parade-goers, ranging in age from 8 to 85, were injured as the gunman apparently shot at random human targets.

Many of those were hit by gunfire from what authorities termed a “high-powered” long rifle allegedly wielded by a 22-year-old terrorist from his hiding post on the roof of a downtown business. The Highland Park tragedy marked the 309th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a consortium that compiles law enforcement data. The group defines a mass shooting as four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.

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Last year, at least 233 people were killed and 618 others were injured in about 500 shootings over the Fourth of July weekend, according to the consortium. That was an improvement from 2020, when 314 people were killed and 751 more were injured.

As with previous mass shooting suspects, once again there were signs the alleged Highland Park shooter had plans to engage in a violent act. Robert Crimo III of Highwood, taken into custody on Route 41 in Lake Forest hours after the July 4 shootings, had posted some eerie videos on social media.

Somebody saw something, but didn’t say anything. Especially considering Highland Park has had a ban, which has weathered several court challenges, on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines since 2013.

The town is not considered a sanctuary for gun owners. Indeed, city residents have held anti-gun and anti-violence protests in the past, most recently last month.

Which reminds us in our increasingly violent culture there is more to do to ensure safety at public events. Looks like law enforcement officials will be inspecting rooftops along parade routes across Lake County before community parades step off the rest of this summer.

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And perhaps in future summers. Which in itself is scary enough to keep us wrapped in our homebody cocoons.

As with other mass shootings, elected officials and law enforcement, along with those who have lost friends, loved ones and relatives, are at a loss to not only explain the senseless deaths, but come to grips with them. Who among us hasn’t uttered “Enough is enough!” when a mass shooting occurs?

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We all want this evil to end. When will it?

Sensible gun laws are needed, but those haven’t seemed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who want to do harm to fellow citizens. As the American revolutionist Thomas Paine noted during America’s fight for independence: “A little matter will move a party, but it must be something great that moves a nation.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.

[email protected]

Twitter: @sellenews

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