Highland Park shooting shows continued bias in addressing gun violence
FILE -Three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 15, 2012. In acknowledgment of Gun Violence Awareness Day, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday, June 3, 2022, that California is spending $11 million on education programs promoting wider use of "red flags" orders that are designed to temporarily take guns away from people who are deemed at risk of harming themselves or others. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
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Let’s get something straight–gun violence is a traumatic and heartbreaking public nuisance no matter where it happens or who it happens to. And, communities that suffer from any form of gun violence should receive the same empathy and services regardless of socioeconomic and racial demographics. 

On the morning of July 4th, 2022, a 22-year-old white man opened fire from a rooftop on people attending an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, about 30 miles outside of Chicago. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded by suspect Robert Crimo, who’s from the community. 

Crimo was apprehended (unharmed) by police about eight hours after the incident in the neighboring city of Lake Forest, Illinois. He’s now charged with seven counts of first degree murder with the possibility of more coming in the future.

Now the reason why I opened with gun violence being an indiscriminate public nuisance is because for some reason, people still seem to treat this public health crisis with bias.

When news of this (another) mass shooting got out, people automatically assumed or were led to believe that it happened in Chicago.

Addressing gun violence differs based on zip code

Multiple media platforms were guilty in pushing this idea by using language like “Chicago area suburb” instead of just saying Highland Park, Illinois.

When Twitter users pointed out the differences and distance between the two cities, people’s tone went from “Oh well, that always happens in Chicago” to “Oh, that never happens in Highland Park–how sad”. 

You hear this every time a shooting happens in a Black, low-income community versus a white, affluent community. However, the stark increase in mass shootings across the country has shown us that this can happen anywhere. 

Now I’m not going to pretend like gun violence in Chicago isn’t a consistent problem. But just because it is, doesn’t make it acceptable. 

We also experienced a mass shooting this past weekend that was overshadowed by the Highland Park incident. But again, because people consider this a regular occurrence in our city, it’s mainly been used as a soapbox for politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene to campaign against gun reform. 

Chicago newspaper devotes little coverage to shootings in inner city

Then, the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times read Horror on the Fourth: Suspect in custody after 6 killed, dozens wounded at Highland Park Fourth of July parade with about four separate op-eds dedicated to the massacre throughout page 1-9. On page 11, there was one article about weekend crime in Chicago that felt like an afterthought.

In light of the parade shooting, one of the Sun-Times pieces listed about 40 resources where families can get support in coping with mass shootings. This kind of public access has never been offered to Chicago families. 

There are no press conferences with officials expressing their condolences to the families losing loved ones every weekend. There aren’t dozens of mental health professionals that have volunteered their services to families in the Windy City like we’re seeing in Highland Park. 

During the announcement of the charges, Lake County state’s attorney Eric Rinehart said, “All of the people who died steps from here lost their freedom — all of it, every ounce of freedom that they had. The freedom to love, the freedom to learn and the freedom to live a full life. Their freedom matters too.” Well, so does the freedom of people in other cities under siege by gun violence.

Please know that this isn’t an attempt to minimize the horror inflicted upon the Highland Park community nor deflect from the trauma and grief of the families that were there and lost loved ones. This is simply another call to action for the entire world to keep this same energy in response to all shootings, regardless of zip code. 

And as unfortunate as it is, gun reform may be the one issue that finally mobilizes and activates people from all backgrounds because this is now the thing that blatantly affects us all.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...