The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Again, Americans are killed by a weapon of war. A ban must be on the table.

A man removes two children's scooters from a sidewalk in downtown Highland Park, Ill., on July 5, a day after a shooting at a Fourth of July parade left seven people dead. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Once again, an angry young man with a high-powered rifle wreaks bloody havoc on an American community. Once again, heartbroken families must plan funerals for loved ones. Once again, something so simple — like going to church or attending school and now watching a parade — is added to the pleasures of life that can no longer be taken for granted. And once again, we must ask why we allow this madness to continue. How many more families and communities have to be needlessly ripped apart before something is finally done about the weapons that make it obscenely easy to kill the most people in the shortest period of time?

Six people were slaughtered in a terrifying matter of minutes on Monday by a gunman perched on a rooftop who took aim and fired more than 70 rounds at the traditional Fourth of July parade in the Highland Park suburb of Chicago. A seventh victim died on Tuesday. Dozens of others were injured. Victims ranged in age from 8 to 88. “It was just this sea of panic, and people just falling and falling,” one witness told CNN, recounting how one minute people were cheering on the floats and marching bands — and then, realizing the noise from a nearby rooftop was gunfire and not part of the show, they frantically ran for cover. Nicolas Toledo, 76, was sitting in a wheelchair when he was struck by bullets and killed. His family had recently moved him to Highland Park from Mexico, his granddaughter said, “so he could have a better life.”

A doctor who was at the parade and ended up treating some of the victims described the horrific injuries he witnessed. “I’ve seen things in ERs, you know, you do see lots of blood,” said David Baum. “But the bodies were literally — some of the bodies — it was an evisceration injury from the power of this gun and the bullets.” He added: “I’ve never served, those are wartime injuries. Those are what are seen in victims of war, not victims at a parade.”

The high-powered rifle used in the attack, according to authorities, was legally purchased by the suspected 21-year-old gunman, who was arrested on Monday and charged Tuesday with seven counts of first-degree murder. The ease of acquiring these weapons of war — and make no mistake, war is what the designers of these weapons envisioned — is by now, after Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas and countless other mass shootings, a sadly familiar story. That the back-to-back shootings in May at a grocery store in Buffalo and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., were allegedly committed by 18-year-olds who had no problem strolling into gun stores and leaving with weapons that would be used to kill 31 people should have been a call to action for Congress.

Instead, the regulation of assault weapons was not even allowed on the table as a package of moderate gun and school safety measures was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators and signed into law. As we said at the time, it was good that Congress was able to take some action, breaking more than a 25-year stalemate on gun control. But as the horrific events of Highland Park demonstrated, more rigorous reforms are needed. Banning assault weapons is a good place to restart the conversation.