More than 100 people crowded into Highland Park Public Library Monday night to participate in a town hall meeting about gun violence in a village whose name has been added to the grim list of American places that have experienced mass shootings.
Although the July 4 shooting was not the sole focus of the gathering, the aftereffects underpinned the forum as state and county leaders updated citizens on ongoing attempts to reduce firearm violence.
“This community suffered a tragedy that if you weren’t there, you don’t know people who were shot that day, you really can’t understand,” State Rep. Bob Morgan said. “Unless you live in a community where there was a shooting the day after that. Or the day after that. Or just yesterday.”
“While those of us in this room have a unique memory etched in our minds and in our lives about what we went through, it’s not a unique experience,” the Highwood Democrat said.
Morgan called gun violence a “public health crisis,” and said he remained supportive of the Illinois assault weapons, which is facing a court fight around the state.
He said there are a number of other avenues lawmakers have taken, and still could take, to reduce firearm violence. The state has banned “ghost guns” and has expanded its red flags laws, he said. Mental health initiatives also play a role.
“We spent the last six months building a coalition, not just the assault weapons ban,” said Morgan, who heads a statehouse working group on gun issues.
State’s Atty. Eric Rinehart told the audience that his office would work on expanding knowledge of the firearms restraining order process, which can result in a judge blocking some from legally possessing a weapon.
Rinehart also updated the audience on the gun violence prevention initiative that his office is spearheading, which should swing into operation later this year. The program will place trained members into the communities who will try to short-circuit shootings before they happen, especially in the communities of Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion that experience regular gun incidents
But Rinehart said the gun violence issue is broad and won’t be easily improved.
“In my opinion, the increase in gun violence everywhere that we see is due to an increase in the number of guns. It is due to an increase in the number of the wrong people having them,” he said.
Rinehart said he supports the state’s assault weapons ban.