Illinois leaders look for solutions following Highland Park shooting

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 7:19 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Illinois state leaders are still trying to understand what led to the mass shooting in Highland Park on Monday morning. Seven first-degree murder charges have already been filed against the alleged shooter, but more information is expected as federal, state, and local law enforcement continue their investigation.

The Fourth of July is meant to be a time of celebration, but it quickly became a deadly nightmare that many feel happens too often in this country.

“I’ve been hearing since the moment of the incident from people from around the country, people who were themselves in communities like Uvalde or Parkland who ask, ‘what can we do,’” said Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield). “We’ve been through this. We know.”

Morgan represents Highland Park and was just blocks away in the parade when the shooting took place. With crowds running and cars driving in the opposite direction, Morgan said he immediately knew something was wrong. Morgan said he quickly got his family to safety in a train station downtown before going back to the shooting scene. He hasn’t stopped working to help his constituents since the shooting.

The representative explained Highland Park is an activist community with people frequently coming together to fight for social change. In fact, Morgan said there was a march against gun violence on that same block over a week ago.

“Obviously our situation, while unique to us, is not unique to the country,” Morgan said. “And it’s something that’s continuing to happen on an increasingly common basis. We really have to continue to do more and work harder to stem this.”

Morgan stressed that he needed to go on social media with a call to action for all Illinoisans. The Democrat wants people to ask their state lawmakers why an assault weapon or extended magazine clip has more rights than the lives of others. He also told followers to ask their legislators how they will increase mental health funding in the state budget and where that money should come from.

Meanwhile, other leaders are looking at strengthening gun laws in Illinois and ensuring people know how to report red flags about people who may cause harm to others.

“Cooperating with law enforcement, providing information, following through, corroborating those concerns - private people can use the firearm restraining order,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. “Anybody and everybody can report to law enforcement any concern that they have.”

Illinois State police have reported that there was no information to establish the alleged gunman was a clear and present danger to others when he co-signed his FOID card application in December 2019. Although, that was just months after local police were called to a house where the future shooter threatened to kill his family. Highland Park police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword before submitting a clear and present danger notice to state police.

“We must do whatever it takes to address the breakdown in mental health, particularly among isolated young men, which was made immeasurably worse during Pritzker’s lockdowns,” said Sen. Darren Bailey.

The Republican nominee for governor is one of many lawmakers calling for a special session to address gun violence following the mass shooting. However, Bailey also had to apologize to many he offended on the Fourth of July during a video of him saying people should “move on” and celebrate the country’s independence after praying for the shooting victims.

The Pritzker campaign says Bailey lacks the temperament and empathy necessary to lead Illinois. Bailey held a campaign raffle in 2019 for an AR-15, the same style of gun used in the Highland Park shooting. The downstate Republican has frequently called for lawmakers to void the FOID card and protect the Second Amendment.

“I held that raffle in all accordance with all the laws in Illinois,” Bailey said. “Let’s be real - Illinois has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the state. And the reality is with that type of gun, most of the people that are buying them are buying them for self-defense.”

Bailey has voted against every budget proposal since Pritzker took office even though the plans included investments in gun violence prevention, public safety, and mental health services. The senator also opposed a plan to strengthen the state’s gun restraining order law that helped educate law enforcement and Illinoisans about the importance of firearm restraining orders.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) said Wednesday that assault weapons and high-capacity magazines don’t belong anywhere near schools, parades or streets. The Army veteran carried an M16 and M4 during her 23 years in the military.

“I know the damage these weapons can do to an adult’s body - let alone an innocent child’s body,” Duckworth said.

Morgan said the community is still waiting for police to re-open the site so people can pick up shoes, chairs, and other personal belongings left along the parade route. He said people need time right now to grieve in their own ways. As for a path forward, Morgan stressed there must be discussions on the local and state level about the best ways to reduce gun violence.

The lawmaker noted many people he spoke with since the shooting are demanding state and federal laws to prevent this from happening again.

“Everyone has a Fourth of July parade in their community or nearby,” Morgan said. “So, this could have happened at anyone’s parade. People are going to have different answers to what we can do or what we should do. It’s not enough to have elected officials put out a statement with thoughts and prayers. That is not enough, and on its phase it’s absurd.”

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