Terry H. Schwadron
July 7, 2022
Despite a “red-flag” law on the books in Illinois, we now know that the young suspect in the Highland Park parade mass killing was allowed to buy guns legally in the last two years at age 19 and 20. He is 21 now.
Despite a police raid on his home three months earlier in 2019 in which police seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword following calls from his family about threats about killing people, he got legal approval from state police to buy at least five guns, including the assault-style weapon used this week to kill seven and wound dozens. The state police said there was there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny his gun-purchase application.
Despite continuing social media posts of music videos that mentioned mass shootings, included cartoon images of a gunman pointing a large rifle and figures spurting blood, the suspect’s father apparently thought it would be okay to sponsor his son’s application for a legal gun license.
From multiple news accounts, it seems easy to conclude that this suspect slipped through the cracks sufficiently to be able to plan out a public gun attack with weapons that he should not have possessed legally.
The new law just passed in Congress promoting red-flag laws to take guns away from those tagged through mental health contacts as potentially dangerous also enhanced background checks for gun buyers ages 18 to 21 — too late for this suspect, of course.
But taken together, we see that even with speed bumps in the system, a determined, if odd young man intent on pursuing gun violence can do so legally even in a state with the intent and votes to set background checks.
What’s wrong here is us — the family, the police, the law, the guns, the need for mental health intervention and the unchecked anger, however expressed. It’s more than about the number of legal guns in circulation, to say nothing of the illegal gun shootings in neighboring Chicago that left more than 70 dead last weekend alone.
It is about taking responsibility for something again having gone very wrong — for the 300th time this year.
And the Politics
In the parallel world of politics, there were strange reverberations to the parade shootings. These massacres are not supposed to happen at public parades for national holidays, for no expressed reason that anyone can understand or in upper-aspiring generally white areas like Highland Park.
Among Democrats, there was frustration that more cannot be done and that the red-flag barriers did not work.
Among any number of Republican politicians, it was a chance to point anew at the futility of gun-limiting laws and red-flag proposals.
On Fox, Tucker Carlson was somehow concluding that the nation’s young men have been “numbed by the endless psychotropic drugs that are handed out at every school in the country by crackpots posing as counselors” who over-lecture young men about “privilege” — whatever that means. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene suggested the shooting was a “false flag” operation meant to encourage gun control efforts.
Obviously, this was not the first case in which the efficacy of red-flag laws has risen. We concentrate on these laws because they are the only legislative compromise on which lawmakers can get sufficient votes. It is easier to talk mental health than gun ownership or the availability of legal assault-style weaponry. The same happened in Parkland, Fla. and in countless other mass shootings.
The whole point of the new federal law is for government to require for the first time that juvenile records, including mental health records beginning at age 16, be vetted for material that identifies young buyers as a danger to themselves or others.
It just doesn’t say we should use common sense.