Three charts that show even the safest US states are never far from a mass shooting

·3 min read
Chicago Highland Park shooting - AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Chicago Highland Park shooting - AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Until Monday, the affluent Chicago suburb of Highland Park was known for little more than being the idyllic backdrop of whimsical John Hughes films, such as Home Alone.

“This isn’t the sort of thing that happens here,” commented one resident as it counted its dead after a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle on a July 4 parade.

While gun violence is not a new problem here, the proliferation of deadly weapons is now forcing Americans all across the US to face worries long endured by those familiar with the horrific toll of firearms in cities. There is no longer a particular place in the country – where guns outnumber people – where “this sort of thing” happens any more.

The Democrat-run state of Illinois has some of the strictest gun safety rules in the country and the ninth-lowest rate of firearms ownership. The state enforces universal background checks, so-called red flag warnings and safe storage requirements.

None of it mattered on Monday, when Robert Crimo III used a high-powered rifle to fire more than 60 rounds into parade-goers, killing six and wounding scores more.

It is not yet known where the 22-year-old purchased his weapon, but it was said to have been bought legally.

Illinois’s attempts to ban assault-style guns have been hampered by federal court rulings. These days, anyone who struggles to buy one in Illinois after failing a background check can purchase one in neighbouring red states, where restrictions are much looser.

Analysis showed fewer than half the guns in Illinois actually come from the state, with nearly 17 per cent from Indiana.

There have already been more than 300 mass shootings this year in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Some 38 have taken place since a massacre in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two teachers dead on May 24.

Just this past weekend, as the US celebrated its independence, mass shootings in multiple cities killed 11 and wounded more than 60.

Each mass shooting poses the same questions, which are especially acute on a day that the US celebrates its freedoms. Does the right to own such deadly weapons outweigh the right of others to life? Are the near-daily attacks on US schools, offices and places of worship a price worth paying?

Republicans, who have cheered the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to enshrine US citizens’ rights to carry outside their home, claim guns make the US free. Yet spiralling gun violence has made Americans’ lives manifestly less free.

Schools now resemble prisons. Parishioners treat one another with suspicion at crowded Sunday services. Meanwhile, July 4 celebrations across the country had to be cancelled on Monday after unidentified noises, feared to be gunshots, caused stampedes.

As JB Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, put it, a day “dedicated to freedom” had put into stark relief “the one freedom that we as a nation refuse to uphold: the freedom of our fellow citizens to live without the daily fear of gun violence”.

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