Highland Park gunman’s history, weapon purchase raise questions whether Democrat gun laws work

Suspect bought rifle banned by city and was allowed purchase despite prior run-ins with police, defying Illinois red flag law.

Published: July 5, 2022 3:40pm

Updated: July 6, 2022 7:23am

The suspected Highland Park, Ill. gunman used a "high-powered" rifle that was previously banned by the city's local government, and he was able to purchase the weapon despite the state's red flag law.  

The suspect carried out a mass shooting at a July 4 parade in Highland Park that killed seven people and wounded many others.

Illinois has had a red flag law in place since 2013, but it didn't prevent the gunman from acquiring the firearm.

The police visited the shooter's home in 2019 and seized weapons, but the shooter was still able to later purchase a semiautomatic weapon he used in the mass shooting.

According to local media reports, the weapon used was a "high-powered" AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle that Robert E. Crimo III, the suspect, legally purchased in Illinois outside of Highland Park.

The Highland Park ordinance that banned semiautomatic weapons like AR-15s was formally adopted in 2013. The Supreme Court upheld the ban in 2015.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said on Tuesday that Crimo violated the local ordinance by bringing the weapon into the city.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that President Biden recently signed doesn't ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons. 

Crimo reportedly had contact with law enforcement prior to carrying out the shooting, but police haven't provided details yet. 

The suspect also posted violent videos on social media, according to NPR. The videos have been removed since the shooting took place. 

The Illinois red flag law established a process to remove firearms from individuals determined to be a danger to themselves or others. According to CBS News, the law is "rarely used, except in DuPage County."

A neighbor of Crimo's said cops were seen at the house often. In 2019, weapons were seized from Crimo, but the red flag law didn't stop him from later acquiring firearms. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Tuesday that Crimo's father sponsored him for the gun permit.

"The situation that we saw on July 4 is tragic, and in some cases, no amount of new laws that are going to get passed is really going to get to the heart of what's driving a lot of these incidents," said Chad Wolf, former acting secretary of Homeland Security under former President Trump.

The gun control law Biden signed does not require states to adopt red flag laws. As Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick recently explained, the law only provides incentives for states to adopt red flag laws.

"It created a fund for states who choose to pass red flag legislation," said the lawmaker, a former FBI agent. "So some states are going to choose to do that, and some states will not. But for the states that do it, it's basically taking a carrot and not a stick approach by incentivizing states to adopt red flag laws." 

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