Who would have thought a July 4th parade in the sleepy town of Highland Park, Illinois, would end in seven deaths and dozens injured?
What did the new law accomplish?
To much fanfare, The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law on June 25th, 2022.
Could any of the new gun laws help prevent the latest tragedy?
Here's a breakdown of the bill and what each piece is supposed to accomplish.
Younger gun buyers will undergo enhanced background checks.
A criminal background check for gun buyers under 21 would require juvenile records, including mental health records, and authorities would have more time to conduct the checks - 10 days instead of three.
Without a doubt, this is an improvement to existing laws. Mental health has played a part in past mass shootings by minors, so giving authorities more time to do a "deeper dive" into someone's background makes sense. Furthermore, not only would the purchaser be disqualified, but their information would also be turned over to the FBI for further investigation.
Would the new bill have prevented the latest tragedy?
The short answer is probably not. The suspect, Robert E. Crimo III, is 22, and The legal age to purchase assault weapons is still 18. The high-powered rifle and other firearms found in the car and residence of the suspect were all purchased legally. The new bill did not ban weapons, specifically high-powered rifles such as the AR-15, used in many mass shootings.
As part of the new gun law, Democrats agreed to let the enhanced background check requirement expire after ten years, leaving future Congresses with the option of extending it. A similar sunset provision allowed the federal assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 to expire in 2004, as Democrats never had enough support to make the law permanent. Furthermore, there was minimal discussion on tightening rules for age-restricted eCommerce stores with extra layers of protection for ID Verification and Age Verification.
Lastly, even though all background checks are enhanced, authorities can only go so far back. For example, mental health records before age 16 would not necessarily disqualify the purchase of a weapon.
Ironically, In June 2013, Highland Park officials passed an ordinance banning AR-15s and AK-47s. Although the Illinois Rifle Association challenged the law in court, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case, allowing a lower court ruling upholding the ban to stand.
What about Social Media?
Would the tragedy have been prevented if a review of social media accounts were part of a pre-purchase investigation in addition to further mental health inquiries? Maybe. Many mass shootings have shown dangerous behavior over the years on social media sites. Crimo posted disturbing images, violent songs, and videos on streaming sites. Spotify and YouTube pulled down the content but would not say when.
"Red Flag Laws"
$750 Million has been set aside for states that create Red Flag Laws, allowing judges to confiscate weapons from people they consider a danger to society. Although this is another step in the right direction for curbing mass shootings, Democrats wanted a federal "red flag" measure so potential offenders would lose their weapons no matter their state.
Doesn't Illinois have a Red Flag Law?
Illinois has had a Red Flag Law for the past five years. Yet, somehow, Crimo could legally purchase five guns, including the suspected murder weapon, despite the police visiting his home twice in 2019. Once for attempted suicide and once for violent threats towards his own family. Highland Park Police declared Crimo a "clear and present danger" after the alleged threats against relatives in September 2019 and confiscating 19 variations of knives.
Did the Red Flag Law Work?
Unfortunately, no family members came forward against Crimo, and Crimo's father claimed the knives were his, so the knives were promptly returned to his father the same day. No charges were filed, and the police could not continue the investigation. When Crimo applied for his "firearm owners identification (FOID)" card under his father's sponsorship four months after the second incident, his background check was approved as there was no firearm restraint on his record. The only thing on Crimo's background check was the unlawful use of tobacco in 2016.
The "Boyfriend Loophole"
The only provision in the bill that would not have affected the shooting was the so-called "Boyfriend Loophole," Which was designed to keep weapons away from domestic abusers.
The original law only applied if the couple was married, living together, or had a child. The new law includes domestic abuse restraining orders or convictions, regardless of whether the couple is married or living together.
The Democrats wanted a "blanket prohibition," but for the bill to pass, they were forced to allow first-time offenders or offenders convicted of violent misdemeanors to regain the ability to purchase a firearm. Furthermore, any conviction would disappear after five years as long as there were no further crimes.
What about mental health and school safety?
One of the main right-wing talking points is mental health and school safety. The new gun laws include $300 million over five years for school training in dealing with a so-called attack, school resource officers, and school personnel interacting with minors with mental health issues. In a bill costing over $13 Billion, one would think the allocation would be higher, but again, democrats settled for a lesser amount than originally planned.
Tougher Penalties for Illegal Firearm Purchases
Straw purchases or people buying guns for those who cannot purchase one on their own will finally be held accountable with up to a 15-year jail sentence, or 25 years if the firearm was part of a violent act, gun trafficking, or terrorism.
Will Crimo's father be held accountable for signing off on his son's ability to get a firearm owner's identification (FOID)" card? Probably not. As it was not directly related to the purchase or the crime.
Lastly, the 800-pound Gorilla.
Two of the most significant issues the right-wing is unwilling to discuss are sweeping measures for the complete ban or universal background checks for large-capacity magazines and a mandatory waiting period for gun sales or a license requirement to purchase an assault weapon.
Yep. Crimo was using high-capacity magazines and got off almost 100 rounds. Would this have stopped the shooting? Probably not. However, it may have reduced the death and destruction caused on what should have been an excellent day for Highland Park and the surrounding communities.
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