The shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., on Monday is likely to reignite a national debate about gun control in the United States, as politicians and advocates — not for the first time — use Illinois as an example of what stricter gun laws can and cannot do when it comes to preventing mass shootings.
After a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., in May, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) said Chicago shows that strict gun laws don’t prevent mass shootings. “There are, quote, ‘real’ gun laws in New York. There are ‘real’ gun laws in California. I hate to say this, but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) argued that Monday’s shooting should spur federal authorities into action on gun control. “We have to get rid of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines” and enact many other “common-sense reforms that wide majorities of Americans are crying out for,” she said.
“The last time I heard a weapon with that capacity firing that rapidly on a Fourth of July was Iraq,” Duckworth, who lost both legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down, said after listening to video recordings of the shooting. “It was not the United States of America.”
So, what does Illinois law say about guns, and how does that track with gun violence in the state?
Illinois has comparatively strict gun laws. In most cases, those wishing to acquire a gun in the state must pass a background check and get a license from law enforcement. Authorities can revoke the license of anyone convicted of domestic battery and a host of other serious crimes. Illinois ranks eighth in the nation in gun-law strength, according to the Giffords Law Center, an institute that advocates for gun control.
Illinois has the 27th-highest gun-death rate in the nation, with 14.1 gun deaths per year per 100,000 people, according to Giffords. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote last year, while Illinois is strict about guns, its neighbors are not.
Using 2019 data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bump wrote that half of the firearms recovered in Illinois that year came from out of state. One out of 6 came from neighboring Indiana, which Giffords ranks 26th in the nation in gun-law strength.
Police have not said where the gun that was used in Highland Park on Monday came from.
The Post also analyzed 41 gun-related mass killings in the United States since 2015 to understand whether gun-control measures proposed by leading politicians and advocates could have prevented them. “Only about one-third of these mass killings might have been prevented by any major proposals,” it found. “But some ideas — such as not allowing people under age 21 to buy assault rifles and banning … magazines that hold more than 10 rounds — might have minimized the bloodshed.”
As The Post’s Glenn Kessler recently wrote, “many proposed laws probably would not have much impact on curbing the mass shootings that dominate the news. But they could lessen their severity, and might also bring down overall gun violence” — notably by reducing the number of suicides, which Kessler noted account for about 60 percent of overall gun deaths in the United States.