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If the Highland Park parade murder suspect’s gun was legally purchased, as officials say, strict state and local gun laws were powerless to stop the Independence Day massacre.
The Daily Wire is not naming the suspect, or his family members, due to a company policy aimed at depriving mass shooters of the notoriety they often crave.
A gunman perched atop a local business killed seven and injured dozens more after opening fire on a Monday Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois. The gun used, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, was purchased legally in 2020 despite the alleged killer’s documented history of threatening and suicidal actions.
Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, and gun control groups consistently rank the state high on their lists for gun safety. Everytown For Gun Safety ranks Illinois sixth in the nation for “Gun Law Strength.” The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit launched by former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, scores Illinois gun laws an “A-.”
“Illinois has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, and much of its gun violence is due to guns trafficked in from neighboring states with weak laws,” the Giffords Law Center says of Illinois.
The gun used in the Highland Park mass shooting was bought legally under the current slate of Illinois gun restrictions. The alleged gunman also purchased several other firearms in addition to the Smith & Wesson M&P15 after obtaining a firearm owners identification (FOID) card from the Illinois State Police, according to authorities.
Lake County Deputy Sheriff Chris Covelli said Tuesday that authorities dealt with the suspected gunman on at least two instances prior to the Highland Park massacre. In April 2019, Highland Park police visited the alleged gunman’s parents’ home, where the suspect lived, after receiving a tip that the suspect had attempted suicide.
“The matter was being handled by mental health professionals at that time. There was no law enforcement action to be taken, it was a mental health issue handled by those professionals,” Covelli said.
The second instance took place in September 2019 when a family member reported the suspect to police for saying “he was going to kill everyone,” Covelli said. Police officers again responded and confiscated a collection of 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword. No further police action was taken after members of the suspect’s family refused to sign an official police complaint.
“At that time, there was no probable cause to arrest. There were no complaints that were signed by any of the victims. The Highland Park Police Department did, however, immediately notify the Illinois State Police of the incident,” Covelli said.
Four months after the September incident, the Illinois State Police (ISP) approved a request from the suspected gunman for a FOID, necessary to purchase a firearm in Illinois. The suspect then bought several guns in 2020 and 2021, one of them being the firearm used in the Monday mass shooting.
ISP officials said that because the suspect was never arrested, law enforcement had no grounds to deny him the FOID. “No one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint” after the September 2019 incident, ISP officials told Axios. “There was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application.”
The suspect’s father sponsored and cosigned the suspect’s application for the FOID. The father’s attorney claimed that the father was unaware of the September 2019 incident when he sponsored the FOID. According to ISD officials, the suspect’s father later retrieved the items confiscated in September 2019, claiming they “were his and they were being stored in the [son’s] closet for safekeeping.”
Because the shooting occurred after the suspect turned 21, the suspect’s father is free from liability as a sponsor and co-signer of the suspect’s FOID, however, Axios reported.
Illinois is one of 19 states in the U.S. that have a “red flag law” in effect, according to Everytown. The law allows family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily restrict someone’s ability to purchase a firearm if they are deemed a threat to the community or themselves. The law has its limits, however, as seen in Highland Park when the suspect’s family failed to raise the alarm over his repeated instances of mental instability.
In addition to the red flag law, Illinois mandates that gun purchasers apply for and receive a FOID, then pass a state background check in order to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer.