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Our family moved from the Chicago area to Riverside in 2015. I was politically active there (and here), including holding part-time public office and volunteering for candidates. In the Midwest, where the temperature in December or January can and will drop below -10, a holiday parade is something you look forward to early and often, after a cold, depressing Winter. Akin to how some felt after the Covid quarantine, it’s always good to get outside in fairly mild weather and see like-minded people on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and July 4th. As Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) said this week, he was planning on participating in FIVE parades on the 4th. Consider campaign volunteers were at the parade and that they didn’t sign up for being in a military theater of operations or similar. And, Rep. Schneider (with his team), wouldn’t have been alone among state reps, state senators, the Governor, etc. Joining him would be police officers, firefighters, city councilors and 2-3 generations of families. A John Cougar Mellencamp song if I ever saw one; possibly without the little pink houses.

Highland Park is unique, with some affluent folks, a sizable Jewish population, and a Saks Fifth Avenue. Yet, unlike nearby Kenilworth, that’s one of the wealthiest suburbs in the US, it’s also progressive, welcoming diversity of background and thought. Ironically, Highland Park was one of the first Illinois cities to enact a handgun ban 30 years ago. Unfortunately, in 2010, the supreme court ruled that 2nd amendment rights supersede what a City can do to protect citizens (and commerce). In 2014, Judge Edmund Chang (an Obama appointee) ruled that Chicago couldn’t restrict where gun stores set-up shop. He wrote that the City didn’t submit enough evidence as to why this would help. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, yet, I don’t recall requirements for peer reviewed studies or factor analysis for a city to enact a reasonable law. That a City can’t regulate some personal and commercial activity appears to conflict with planning and zoning as well as code enforcement.

Related to this, the authors of an ATF study reflected that 106 gun stores nationwide accounted for 40% of the country’s lost or stolen guns.  Answering the ‘so what question,’ what if some of these guns weren’t actually lost or stolen, though shared with or sold to folks who aren’t allowed to buy a gun? What if, like in some California communities, a gun store can be operated out of a HOME? At least 1 such business in California is just beyond the minimum required distance from a school. This poses a risk of increased gun thefts and more crime in a residential neighborhood.

Another study reflected that a Milwaukee gun store known for the volume of weapons it sold that were used in crimes, saw this pattern increase 203% when the Tiahrt Amendment was enacted. The Amendment has severely limited this kind of research that can inform crime-fighting. (Such legislation is nearly worse than ‘de-funding’ the police, which hasn’t really occurred.) Do some politicians prevent authorities from knowing where guns used in crimes are obtained to avoid contradicting their tired, inaccurate talking points on how gun violence is ‘only’ a problem among the criminal element? Yet I digress.

As I was saying, when I was growing up in Evanston, Highland Park had some of the best Chicago style hot dogs and apple pancakes in town. It was where you went, many a weekend. There was also an independent grocer, a commuter train stop, and lots of open space. While it’s been written that pro athletes like Michael Jordan lived there, those of lower tax brackets lived in and around the City, as well.

Just like the morning of September 11th, 2001, Monday, July 4th started-out like any other day. In countless towns nationwide, there were parades, celebrations, busy pools and beaches. 10 minutes after the start of Highland Park’s parade, a person allegedly fired up to 70 rounds from the roof of a business. Currently 7 people have been killed and another 20+ were injured. 5 of those killed were pronounced dead on site (possibly due to being shot multiple times). 4 of those killed happened to be Jewish. These last two sentences are a microcosm of America. The weapons used in mass shootings lead to pulverized citizens (quoting Lake County Sheriff’s Deputies) and, increasingly, those injured are of a Hispanic, Asian, Jewish or black background. Disturbingly, though probably not in Highland Park’s case, sworn officers have demonstrated a significant hesitance to intervene when minority populations are involved. 2-3 School Resource Officers fled Marjorie Douglas High School in Broward County Florida. Some of those killed there include people with Jewish and Hispanic names. Nine officers waited 75 minutes to tangibly intervene in Uvalde, Texas.  So, not only are Americans more likely to be involved in a mass shooting; some Americans are less likely to be helped, rescued or saved.

What happened in Highland Park has been widely and painstakingly reported. Yet, especially for those of us from suburban Chicago, it’s still hard to believe. Some folks said they were initially nearly certain it must have been a different highland park. Now, when a mass shooting occurred in a California suburb, some said, they couldn’t believe it happened in their town. This despite charities and political parties raffling off weapons (no background checks?), parents buying teens guns, and expressions like if people disagree with you, they should be taken out and shot.

I don’t think folks are saying it was impossible or inconceivable for a mass shooting to occur in a place like highland park. They were saying that, when a city takes tangible steps to protect its citizens, it should be A LOT less likely for a mass shooting to occur there.

Further, believing a shooting will never occur in your town, despite the sporting goods stores, gun, and pawn shops with weekly gun specials and raffles is quite different than being well aware of what occurs in other cities. The latter citizens and stakeholders know that, paraphrasing King, injustice in Aurora, Colorado or Killeen, Texas has the potential to be ‘felt’ elsewhere.

In fact, if it’s thought that gun violence isn’t a problem, stakeholders and citizens won’t prepare in any way shape or form. An American Medical Association publication recently reported the story of a Virginia hospital near Blacksburg, who’s staff who started to doubt the need to train on handling a response to mass shooter situations (as part of their mass casualty drills). Not long after, there was a mass shooting at Virginia Tech, where the hospital in question received numerous victims. While doubts about the problem of gun violence didn’t end the drills, they may have decreased how seriously some staff addressed the training. (The same can be said for disaster natural disaster preparedness.) There’s little choice when it comes to where victims of a mass shooting are taken. There’s no time to shop around for sites where staff take such dangers seriously.

By now its known that a 2-year-old boy became (was made?) an orphan on July 4th, as both his parents were shot to death; most likely protecting him, where their blood may be on his socks. At the least, this child may never want to come close to anything patriotic ever again.

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About 2 years ago, a child his age was ‘unborn,’ apparently the most important people in the US. As soon as he and his parents were born, they lost the concern of many righteous, moral and pro-life folks. And, we have to ensure such folks are aware of this dichotomy. Why is an unborn child more important than a person with relatives and friends? The stories of other victims have been published elsewhere and amplify the tragedy to those who, ‘Give ear.’

Beyond those killed and injured, if someone you knew was in a car accident or going into labor in northern Illinois on Monday, they had to wait. My home-town of Evanston sent at least one fire engine. That’s a 15-mile trip without a lot of freeways. In Chicago, it can take 25+ miles to travel 10-15 miles. Evanston cancelled it’s parade and closed its beaches as it was unclear what exactly was occurring. And, it was later reported that the alleged shooter traveled to Madison, Wisconsin afterward (another city that ‘happens’ to have a sizable Jewish population.) Note that Macomb, Illinois; Ames, Iowa, or Bloomington, Illinois weren’t chosen (All university towns like Madison). Hence, the people in charge of various departments in Evanston made a solid decision.

What happened in Highland Park shouldn’t have happened. No, really. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s reported that the alleged shooter is the son of a former mayoral candidate. A lot has changed since the shooting at Columbine High School. Not only police tactics. Then, 2 rebellious teens that appeared to have acted on their own wreaked havoc on their school. Now, even if a young adult is the alleged perpetrator, he (most are male), has received some sort of assistance from his parents. This includes obtaining a weapon and a less than neutral world-view. We can all agree that the presence of f the president flags, nooses at the capitol, and common citizens outside the Michigan Governor’s home signify a stark and unfortunate change in the political discourse of the US. The Kennedy-Nixon debate is famous or even infamous.  Yet, Nixon campaign volunteers weren’t trespassing on any Kennedy property. Nixon and Kennedy were friends for a time. Imagine Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi having a meal within 10 feet of each other. Imagine Elise Stefanik and Liz Cheney having a coffee at a DC Starbucks. It’s not going to happen. As an aside, I may have mentioned here how a group I was with lobbied Rep. Henry Hyde (Hyde Amendment author), about RU-486, the first abortion pill, and how he met with us himself.

Even if I wanted to discuss economic development, I can nearly guarantee you that Mr. McCarthy, La Malfa, and the rest of their caucus would refuse to meet with me, if they’d pick-up the phone.

That is an area to address in reducing the societal temperature in the US. It won’t prevent some or all gun violence, though it may make people more respectful, more willing to compromise and less willing to seek permanent solutions for what may not even be problems.

It’s also reported that Illinois’ Firearm Owner’s Identification Card system worked. The person in question was allegedly denied such a card. Yet, his father – the former candidate – allegedly either over-rode the State’s decision or vouched for his son. As has been reported, this was also after the son threatened to kill his entire family. I didn’t know a person could over-rule a state law enforcement decision outside of court. That a person could vouch for a relative to get a gun, which in some ways means little. Again, think about how many city, county, state and federal officials and public safety officers are at a typical July 4th parade.

How many of them were chatting, not approaching a location in plain clothes (under-cover), with weapons drawn, or aware that someone in the area was about to commit wrong-doing and put their lives at risk. In other words, that a ‘lawful gun owner’ was about to switch to becoming an alleged criminal.

No one who votes against modest gun control entirely backs the badge or strives toward SAFER COMMUNITIES. No one who clings to the 2nd amendment as more important than anything else is truly pro-life or fiscally conservative. For Highland Park will spend $100,000’s on the investigation and Lake County Illinois will spend close to $500,000 to prosecute the case. And, collectively, all Illinois residents will spend $93,000 per year incarcerating someone, possibly for 60 years, leading to a $6-$7 million cost.

Isn’t it interesting that every state or federal building has metal detection and Congress is protected by the federal protective service, capitol and parks police? Most California residents are solely protected by the sheriff or city police and, in some cases, CHP. It was also reported that we could see capitol police divisions in the states. Apparently, some members of congress don’t feel safe in their districts. How contradictory can one be?

Seeing Highland Park along with Uvalde, Buffalo, Boulder, and El Paso is still very hard to get used to. After conversations with folks in legislative offices who are on the other side of aisle here and in Illinois, I wonder if some folks went into ‘public service’ more to push a narrow, dogmatic agenda than to enable more folks to pursue happiness. For common sense ideas like limits on how many rounds of ammunition that can be purchased appear to be a novel suggestion they’ve never thought of. A lot of these leaders tell us to ask, ‘What would Jesus do.’ Yet, Jesus didn’t carry a slingshot (or, with all due respect, a semi-automatic sling-shot). And nothing the ‘Framers’ carried was semi or fully automatic, nor could they envision something that was. You can’t legislate for or against something that is so far in the future. it's not even science fiction. Also, some among the citizenry would much rather debate if an assault rifle exists (on paper), versus ways to prevent some folks from having or using them.

As goes Highland Park, as goes San Bernardino, as goes Buffalo, so goes the nation. Suggesting that this occurs mostly or only in blue states is insensitive, overlooks that the alleged shooter left Illinois for Wisconsin, and no city, county or state is exclusively red or blue.

Post-script: As I write this, it’s being reported that a former (conservative) Japanese Prime Minister was assassinated. Although 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 years after a mass shooting is ‘too soon’ to discuss, the minute this was reported, I’m sure several US conservatives pointed to this as a reason ‘gun laws’ don’t work. The rationale is that Japan probably has a lot of gun laws. If a leader can be assassinated there, what’s the point of gun control here. Well, if you say its too soon after Sandy Hook, Uvalde, or elsewhere, we really shouldn’t be discussing what happened in Japan this week. Additionally, not all who engage in tax irregularities (possibly including a Colorado US Rep.) are caught. We don’t toss the thousands of pages of tax code. A certain car manufacturer got away with evading environmental protection standards for quite some time. Many Americans, excluding the Supreme Court, aren’t suggesting to end the EPA. Hence, because Lincoln, King, Kennedy, and Reagan were shot, doesn’t mean we avoid trying to keep another person from being shot.