When my daughter called me to alert me to the parade shooting on July 4th, “Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting rocks country already filled with turmoil over SCOTUS rulings, Jan. 6 hearings” (July 4), I shouldn’t have been shaken, as I have become almost inured to the violence, but I was. Perhaps because Highland Park is my hometown, and my children, their cousins and I have been in that parade with festooned bikes and wagons. In fact, my niece, her mom and her stepfather narrowly missed being in harm’s way, fatefully arriving just minutes after the shooting.
Highland Park is a lovely lakefront suburb with a beautiful and thriving historic downtown, the film location of numerous movies, from “Ordinary People” to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” with excellent public schools. It’s the rare kind of community where you don’t worry about your kids safety, and there is very little crime. It’s also a community that, in the wake of other mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Santa Monica, California and Tucson, Arizona banned assault rifles in 2013.
As we later learned the identity of the suspect, it raised additional concerns. This young man was raised in this town. Highland Park is a community with significant affluence that provides many of the support services that political leaders are claiming will stop the violence. This is a town where people do get access to social workers and counselors and yet, it still happened there. I’m not suggesting that communities shouldn’t invest in mental health, but we should not believe that it will solve the problem of escalating gun violence.
The most significant correlation to mass shootings is the availability of assault weapons. During the assault weapons ban from 1994-2004, one study showed the risk of dying in a mass shooting declined by 70% even with the inclusion of Columbine in 1999.
According to Pew Research, the 2020 gun murder rate total represented a 49% increase over five years and a 75% increase over 10 years. We now have over 45,000 people dying annually due to gun violence with roughly half of those being suicide. As measured on a per capita basis, the U.S. gun death rate was 10.6 per 100,000 people in 2016 (increasing to 13.6 in 2020). This compares to countries with gun restrictions such as Canada, with 2.1, and most of the European nations falling between 0.6 and 2.7 per 100,000.
It’s also worth mentioning Highland Park’s July 4th parade had many armed police officers in attendance. Despite this, the shooter, armed with an assault rifle, was able to get off at least 70 rounds, injuring 45 people, seven mortally, before fleeing. In all likelihood, there would have been more fatalities had police not been there. But, nonetheless, this again demonstrates that even with police present and quick intervention, an active shooter with an assault rifle will inflict significant physical damage to dozens and psychological damage to scores more innocent people in just a minute or two.
We must counter the Natinal Rifle Association narrative and demand an assault weapons ban. Assault weapons are not sporting guns, unless shooting us is the sport. We are not safe in our schools or workplaces, in our places of worship, grocery stores, malls, theaters or public events. We are simply not safe anywhere in America.
— Marie LaPorte, Reisterstown
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