Chicago and Highland Park, Illinois, were rocked by violent shootings over the holiday weekend, including a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade. The shootings come on the heels of a national debate on strengthening gun control measures, and data shows the two Illinois cities have a long history of supporting and enacting gun control laws.
Highland Park, located fewer than 30 miles from Chicago, saw a tragic mass shooting on Monday during the town’s Fourth of July parade that left six people dead and 30 others injured.
Leaders of the town banned "assault rifles" in 2013, including AR15s and AK47s. The ban was met with legal action and was ultimately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court, however, denied hearing the case in 2015, allowing a lower court to rule the ban remain in place, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"A ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines might not prevent shootings in Highland Park (where they are already rare), but it may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs," the appeals court wrote at the time.
Highland Park, which is home to mostly Democratic voters, is also the site of activism in support of gun control measures. A "community art action against gun violence" event was held in the town last month in response to the Uvalde school shooting, where members of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action participated, as well as Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider.
An art installation for the event was still on display Monday outside the art center Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported, and features thousands of pieces of orange fabric representing children who have been fatally shot.
In nearby Chicago, shootings raged over the long holiday weekend, killing at least 10 and leaving 62 injured. The city has long-faced rampant crime issues and notched its deadlines year on record in 25 years at the conclusion of 2021.
Chicago has long been known as a city with some of the strictest gun laws, which stretches back to its ban on handguns in 1982. The Supreme Court struck down the ban in 2010, but the city has continued with other strict laws.
The city has a ban on "assault weapons," defined as "any weapon that shoots… automatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger," which includes automatic rifles and "ghost guns." Large-capacity magazines are also banned in Cook County, which includes Chicago.
Conservatives and Second Amendment supporters have pointed to Chicago as evidence strict gun laws don’t work, including Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year following the Uvalde school shooting in May.
"There are quote ‘real’ gun laws in Chicago... I hate to say this, but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas," Abbott said in May.
Fact checking sites such as Politifact have labeled Abbott's comments as "mostly false" for not including that "regulations have been weakened after federal court reversals" on gun laws and that guns in the city often come from neighboring states. The fact checks, however, do acknowledge that Chicago has strict gun laws.
Chicago is often recognized alongside cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore for having some of the strictest gun laws. While Illinois overall received an "A-" grade from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence for its annual gun law scorecard in 2021.
Illinois was ranked eighth across the country for its tight gun control laws, being beaten by states such as California, New York and New Jersey, according to the nonprofit led by former Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence lauded Illinois for its universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, open carry regulations and other restrictions, but called on the state to strengthen laws on firearm registrations, ban large capacity magazines and restrict "assault weapons" and bulk firearm purchases.
Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation last summer looking to further strengthen gun control laws in the state, requiring background checks for private gun sales. The law will take effect in 2024. The governor also outlawed making, selling and owning "ghost guns" this year.
The tragic mass shooting in Highland Park follows a group of bipartisan senators successfully negotiating a bill to incentivize states to pass red flag laws and expand background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds, among other initiatives. President Biden signed the bill into law last month.
"Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved," Biden said in an address to the nation when he signed the bill into law. "From Columbine to Sandy Hook to Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, Uvalde and for the shootings that happen every day in the streets. How many times have you heard that, ‘Just do something, for God's sake just do something?'
"Today, we did."
The legislation was the most significant gun control bill in nearly 30 years, and it sparked the ire of the NRA, which said it will do "little to truly address violent crime."
"The NRA will support legislation that improves school security, promotes mental health services, and helps reduce violent crime. However, we will oppose this gun control legislation because it falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners," the NRA said following the bill’s text being released last month.