Photo Credit: Screenshot

I  was hoping that I wouldn’t have to repeat myself.  But it appears I have no choice. Once again we have been subjected to the horror of a mass shooting by a deranged gunman. This one was close to home. Highland Park is a wealthy suburb just north of Chicago. It is a fifteen-minute drive from my house. I have been to that suburb many times. 

I had clients there during my working years. I had a close friend living there. There are people that comment on this blog that were raised there. There is a an Orthodox Shul there whose rabbi I know fairly well. I have attended weddings in that Shul. Author and Mishpacha columnist Jonathan Rosenblum was raised there.


Highland Park is heavily Jewish. It is estimated that Jews comprise between 30 and 50 percent of the population.

Unless you live under a rock, you already know the story. From Reuters:

A gunman perched on a rooftop opened fire on families waving flags and children riding bikes at a Fourth of July parade on Monday, killing six and wounding more than 36 in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

The gunman climbed to the roof of a business using a ladder in an alley, police said. The attack turned a civic display of patriotism into a scene of mayhem.

Hours later, police announced that they had a suspect in custody after 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III surrendered to authorities.

There is no evidence that this was a hate crime. Crimo had no history of antisemitism and no known association with antisemitic or racist groups. Nevertheless, the fact is that Highland Park is so heavily Jewish that a victim in a shooting like this could easily be Jewish. Which is the case. At least 2 and possibly as many as 4 of the seven* people killed were Jewish. Yesterday Crimo was charged with 7 counts of first degree murder – with more charges to come.

I don’t think I need to say how devastated the families of those seven people are. 2 of the victims: Kevin and Irina McCarthy, were parents of  Aiden, a 2-year-old son who survived. Can anyone even begin to imagine such a horrible scenario? One moment they are a happy family, the next moment the parents are gone and their child is an orphan.  Fortunately, the grandparents (Irina’s parents) were located and they now have the child.

If here is a silver lining here (which seems to be unimaginable) it is that it has united the community and spurred many people outside the community to offer help in any way they can. The generosity of the American people is once again been demonstrated by donations from all over the country sent to a GoFundMe account set up for the family and Aiden by Irina Colon, a sympathetic woman living Highland Park. It has already raised over 2 million dollars!

What is less obvious is that those who attended that event and were not hurt physically were nevertheless traumatized as well. Bullets were flying by them on every side. Depending upon whose estimate you believe there may have been as many as 37 additional people injured, some of them seriously.  I can only imagine how shaken anyone that was there at the time of the shooting  are. PTSD is not unlikely outcome for some of them. They may need long term therapy. Anyone that was there that day will surely remember it as one of the worst days of their lives.

These are the names of the 4 of the other victims:

Four of other others who were killed were identified Tuesday as Katherine Goldstein, 64; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88; and Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78. Every victim was from Highland Park except for Toledo-Zaragoza, who was visiting family in the city from Morelos, Mexico.

Officials haven’t yet identified the seventh victim.

This pretty much sums up the information to date.

As always the subject of gun control rises to the top of the pile of public discourse. I almost feel like I am wasting my time talking about it. All the usual suspects both pro and con will be offering their views.

The pro gun people will be insisting that the problem is not with guns. It is with the criminals and people with mental health issues that are the problem. They argue that gun rights in America are sacrosanct and constitutionally protected. They reject any solution limiting gun ownership by the American people. Adding that the best way to prevent  mass shootings like this is to concentrate on mental health.

They are not wrong. We need to focus a lot more on mental health. The kind of people that commit mass shootings suffer from serious mental health issues. People like that need to be quickly identified and treated.

The problem with their argument is that there is no way to assure that people like will not be able to buy an assault weapon legally. As did Crimo in this case. Even the red flag laws that exist in Illinois didn’t filter him out.

Gun rights advocates fail to acknowledge one very simple fact. The weapon of choice in almost all mass shootings is an assault rifle like the AK 47. This is a gun manufactured to simulate automatic combat weapons used by the military. They are designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Multiple rounds of ammunition can be fired n a matter of seconds.

That they are by law required to be only semi-automatic and fire only one bullet at a time is easily overcome by a bumper stock  – a gun clip that is legal and changes the weapon to work the way a fully automatic weapon does.

The only way to stop people like Crimo is to outlaw assault rifles like the AK 47. Or at least to outlaw the bumper stock that makes them automatic. It can’t be a local law or state law. That it is illegal in Illinois just means going next door to Indiana where it is legal and buying it there. It has to be a national law that makes it unavailable for purchase anywhere in the country – even online. There has to be a way for congress to do that.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Common sense gun legislation is a no-brainer for me. The argument that such laws violate the second amendment is so ridiculous I’m surprised that anyone could say that with a straight face. But that is exactly what the gun lobby says. And nobody is laughing. Certainly not the families of the people killed in mass shootings Mass shootings have become so common that it isn’t even news anymore. Until it happens in your own backyard.

That this has become a political issue is beyond my understanding. It simply isn’t rational to oppose sensible legislation even of you are politically conservative.. Polls have shown that the vast majority of people in a politically divided country like ours would nevertheless  like to see legislation like that passed.

That there are politicians that ignore their own constituency can only be explained by one thing: Money. Members of congress that oppose any gun legislation at all get huge donations from the gun lobby. Those politicians have to know how their constituents feel and how ridiculous their opposition to sensible gun laws are. But they also know where their bread is buttered.

For politically conservative-leaning voters like me, this is a dilemma. The thought of voting for liberal politicians because they are not beholden the gun lobby is something I do not relish. Making it difficult to vote those that are beholden to them out of office. But to allow this country to retain its title of the mass murder capital of the civilized world (by far) is not an option either.

I don’t know the solution to this conundrum. Perhaps we need to do a better job funding the campaigns of conservative politicians so that they wouldn’t need to rely on the gun lobby’s money. I don’t know. I am at a loss.

One thing is certain, however. We have to end mass shootings. There has to be a way to prevent what happened in Highland Park Monday without giving up our principles in other important areas. I just wish I knew what that was. 

*A 7th and as of now unidentified victim died in the hospital yesterday.

{Reposted from the author’s blog}


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].