Richard Kates remembers the groceries spoiling in the hot car on the day Laurie Dann opened fire at Hubbard Woods School in 1988.
He had come home from work that day, taking note of the heavy police presence at the intersection of Tower and Hibbard roads. His wife called and told him what had happened: Dann had shot six children, one fatally, and was presumed still at large.
"It was an absolutely horrific day," recalled Kates, a village trustee and an attorney.
Leading up to the Winnetka Village Council's approval of regulations on assault weapons recently, the Dann shooting loomed large in the debate on gun control some 25 years after the tragedy. For some, like Kates, the day served notice that gun violence could pierce the tranquillity of the North Shore. But others were quick to point out that Dann did not use an assault rifle in her rampage and blamed her mental illness, instead.
The assault weapons ordinance restricts the transportation of assault weapons in the village but does not ban them. It's another chapter in Winnetka's history of sparse but heartbreaking gun violence and corresponding regulation.
After the Dann shooting, the village in 1989 banned handguns — but that was repealed in 2008.
Many residents also recall April of 1990, when 16-year-old New Trier High School student David Biro shot and killed a couple in their Winnetka townhome. Despite the ban, Biro used a .357-caliber handgun.
"I'd rather see Winnetka take the lead on mental illness than try to parrot Cook County legislation," said Patrick Connelly, a longtime Winnetka resident who spoke against the latest ordinance.
Connelly, a retired banker, was on his way home from work in the Loop on the day of the Dann shooting. He remembers the distinct silence among his fellow commuters that day. But he decried the new ordinance as unenforceable and unnecessary.
"It's a very emotional issue in Winnetka, but I sense it's more about keeping options open," Connelly said after the council voted to approve the ordinance restricting the transportation of assault weapons.
That's what some of the trustees argued before it went to vote.
"All we're doing is preserving what we had two weeks ago," said Trustee Joe Adams, referring to the village's ability to make its own assault weapons rules.
Under the state's new concealed carry law, home-rule authority communities had only a small window of time to define and regulate assault guns. Once that window closed — on July 19 — the state law preempts home rule.
Winnetka's ordinance requires owners of assault weapons, as defined by the new village ordinance, to disassemble them, rendering them unusable, before transporting them from the owner's property.
Earlier in the week, the council had discussed a ban on assault weapons, thereby aligning itself legally with Highland Park and Cook County. Kates argued this would better position Winnetka in case of litigation.
But trustees decided on what appeared to be a compromise.
Among other definitions in the new ordinance, assault weapons are described as any semi-automatic rifle or pistol with a fixed magazine that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition. A person found in violation will be fine no less than $500 and no more than $1,000.
Trustees Kates, Adams, Patrick Corrigan, Arthur Braun and Stuart McCrary voted for the ordinance.
Trustee Jack Buck, a New Trier High student on the day of the Dann shooting, represented the only no vote on the ordinance. Buck argued passionately and at length in opposition to the assault weapons regulations at the two council meetings leading up to the vote.
"If the five of you, or six of you, want to vote on how I'm allowed to protect my family, I will very much resent that for the rest of my life," Buck said to his fellow trustees.
The council lacks the expertise to regulate assault weapons, Buck said. If anything, he said, it will make Winnetka residents more vulnerable to would-be criminals. Now that the ordinance is on the books, future councils could amend it to make it more difficult to own a gun and protect one's home in Winnetka.
He described a hypothetical situation of trying to defend his family with a limited number of bullets because of the village ordinance.
"I don't think that will ever happen in Winnetka. I'm not crazy. I've lived here all my life," Buck said. "But who knows what the future will bring?"
Kates remembers what was brought by the past. He described to his fellow trustees how the son of then-neighbors, 6-year-old Robert Trossman, was shot in the stomach by Dann in the bathroom of the Hubbard Woods School. She would later turn the gun on herself.
After the council vote, Kates said he was disappointed they couldn't pass a ban on assault weapons, but was glad the village passed an ordinance at the deadline.
"People like to insulate themselves, but the past indicates these events can happen anywhere," Kates said.
Don Trossman knows the fact of that statement firsthand.
Reached by phone recently, Trossman declined to discuss that day or his son, Robert, beyond saying that "he's doing fine." Over the years, the Trossman family has been approached by many media outlets, he said.
"We have steadfastly not talked to the press. … We were more concerned with our child healing and not wanting him to live with this for the rest of his life," said Trossman, a Glencoe resident and managing director at Cohen Financial.
Trossman said he's always favored limiting access to guns, but his feelings have grown stronger in recent years.
"I've become more opinionated about not putting assault weapons in the hands of private citizens," Trossman said. "It's just not necessary."
A history of Winnetka's prominent shootings and ensuing gun regulations
May 1988 – Laurie Dann shoots six children at the Hubbard Woods School, killing 8-year-old Nick Corwin. She also shot 20-year-old Phil Andrew before killing herself.
1989 – Winnetka passes a handgun ban.
April 1990 – David Biro, a 16-year-old New Trier High School student, shoots and kills Richard and Nancy Langert in their Winnetka townhome. Biro is later sentenced to life in prison.
June 2008 – The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Washington D.C. handgun ban, ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own a firearm for self-defense.
November 2008 – Winnetka repeals its handgun ban.
July 19, 2013 – The Winnetka Village Council approves an ordinance regulating the transportation of assault weapons in the village.