Editorial: Now is the time to review Illinois gun laws

  • Court officials and Lake County sheriff deputies look over a monitor during the initial appearance of the man accused of the July 4 Highland Park shootings.

    Court officials and Lake County sheriff deputies look over a monitor during the initial appearance of the man accused of the July 4 Highland Park shootings. Associated Press Pool Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 7/7/2022 6:40 AM
This editorial is the consensus opinon of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

As all of us try, and most of us fail, to wrap our heads around the unspeakably tragic, pointless loss of life in Highland Park on the Fourth of July, one theme that has been recurring over the last 24 hours is the question of why Illinois gun laws weren't enough to prevent the shooter from getting his weapons of mass destruction.

Illinois has what many people consider among the most stringent gun laws in the nation. We require adults to have Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) cards to both buy and possess guns. We are among 19 states that have "red flag" provisions enabling law enforcement to seize weapons from people considered unstable or dangerous.

 

Yet, despite circumstances that could have raised suspicion, those laws weren't enough to stop Monday's shooter from meticulously planning and then carrying out a rooftop attack that killed seven people and injured about 40 more. Maybe nothing would have stopped the carnage. But consider that this is not the first time there have been questions about the efficacy of Illinois' gun laws.

• In 2018, a Morton, Illinois, native convicted of killing four people at a restaurant in Tennessee in 2018 had earlier surrendered his guns to his father after he claimed the singer Taylor Swift was stalking him. The father gave the weapons back to him, and one of them was used in the Tennessee shooting. In May of this year, the man's father was convicted of returning the guns, as Illinois law prohibits giving or selling a firearm to someone who has been treated in a mental health facility within five years.

• In 2019, a man who had been banned from owning a gun for five years nevertheless still had one, and used it to fatally shoot five people at an Aurora factory where he worked.

• This week, police report they seized 16 knives, a sword and a dagger from the Highland Park shooting suspect in 2019, at a time when the suspect did not have a FOID card. He later received a FOID card from the Illinois State Police, and authorities believe he bought several guns in the years since, all legally. The ISP has since issued a statement, " ... that at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Of course, it's true that no law will prevent everyone who shouldn't have a firearm from getting one. But we still must at least make it hard for dangerous individuals to get guns, and we need to be sure that we're properly administering the strict laws already on the books. So, the time is right -- and the political will appears ripe -- to discuss Illinois laws and look for loopholes that can be closed legislatively.

We don't want knee-jerk reaction to the massacre in Highland Park. We start by assuming that Illinois legislators are serious people who take gun violence seriously, and that cogent, well-informed discussions can take us to a better place.

During the final week in June, President Joe Biden signed federal legislation that indicates the nation as a whole is moving toward Illinois on guns. Among other things, the law provides $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs, like "red flag" authorizations, crisis interventions and mental health, drug and veterans courts. The law bars from having a gun anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone with whom they have a relationship.

Illinois is in a position of leadership. We urge legislators to continue to stake out the high ground on this issue, and give serious thought to how we can improve our own laws.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.