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The NRA celebrated the scene of the July 4th shooting in Highland Park IL that killed seven people and wounded dozens more. Photo by Youngrae Kim / AFP via Getty Images

Because Citizens Were Armed

Abby Zimet

In an unholy juxtaposition - cue panicked people running for their lives past a Klezmer band cheerily playing on unawares - Highland Park, Illinois celebrated "America's day (with) what has become a sickeningly American story" when a disturbed white kid armed with an AR-15 (shocker) exercised his less-than-well-regulated Second  Amendment rights by opening fire on a July 4 parade, killing seven innocents and wounding over two dozen. Police say Robert 'Bobby' Crimo, 21 - in another shocker, a gun-and-death-obsessed misfit whose past is "littered with red flags, including threatening to kill his whole family" - used an "unsecured" ladder to climb unseen to a rooftop in a "very random, very intentional" crime he'd planned for weeks. Police said he fired up to 70 shots; the victims ranged from eight to 88 years old. Crimo escaped but was soon taken into custody "without incident" - in contrast to, say, Jayland Walker, who Akron police shot 60 times during a chase after a traffic stop, not a mass killing, before they brought his body, handcuffed behind his back, to the morgue. Maybe Walker being black made a difference here? Naaah. Though white, Crimo's still been charged with seven murders; more charges are expected.

Sorrowfully but unsurprisingly, Highland Park - which banned assault weapons in 2013 and fought off legal challenges until a 2015 Supreme Court ruling - was not the only site of gun violence over the July 4 weekend. There were shootings in Philly, New York, Kansas City, Tacoma, Wash., Richmond and Manassas, Va., etc. But Highland Park was the most deadly, and - those overturned lawn chairs on a glad parade route - the most dystopian. As usual, credit for the carnage, large and small, goes to a blood-soaked, ever-shameless NRA, happy to take it. Even as Highland Park residents were still sheltering in place during the manhunt for Crimo, the NRA posted - and kept online - a staggeringly tone-deaf missive. “The only reason you’re celebrating Independence Day is because citizens were armed," says a voiceover with a bald eagle image. "Happy Fourth of July from the National Rifle Association.” Adds a tweet, “We are a country because of brave souls with guns who valued and fought for liberty and freedom.” Shannon Watts of MomsDemand on the horror of a kid on a rooftop in "sniper position" picking off parade-goers: "This isn’t freedom; it’s terrorism.”

Alas, the NRA weren't the only macho, complicit jerks. Clueless Gun Owners of America posted, "This long weekend brought to you by armed citizens," accompanied by an image of Revolutionary Era soldiers and, "We are not descended from fearful men." No, just mass-murdering ones. Tucker Carlson, especially desperate to pivot away from guns, bizarrely pinned the ills of the Highland Park shooter on women nagging men, social media and school counselors handing out pills. And hours after the shooting, Illinois State Sen. and Trump-endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Bailey, who in 2020 held a fundraiser raffling off a semi-automatic rifle, decided it was a good time for a campaign video urging us all to "move on." "Let's pray for justice to prevail," said Bailey as he stood amidst robot-supporters holding signs. "And now let's move on and celebrate the independence of this (blood-spattered) nation." Tell it to the grieving families. Helpfully, he  added "we all know the mission - we have got to get corruption and evil out of our government." Umm, no. Actually, we have to get the NRA, assault weapons and idiot GOP accomplices out of our national power structures.

In contrast, Dem. Gov J.B. Pritzker was full of righteous wrath. "If you are angry today, I'm here to tell you to be angry," he told residents. "I'm furious." He was furious more innocent lives were lost, their loved ones "are forever broken," this keeps happening across America, and "it does not have to be this way." "There are going to be people who say that today is not the day, that now is not the time to talk about guns. I'm telling you there is no better day and no better time than right here and right now." In likely agreement is Alexander Sandoval, 39, who sat on a bench crying as police cars sped by, sirens blaring. He'd gone early to set up chairs for the parade; in the ensuing chaos, he grabbed his five-year-old-son, ran to an alley and put the boy in a dumpster to keep him safe. "This doesn't happen here," he said. "It shouldn't happen anywhere." What else shouldn't happen anywhere: Two-year-old Aiden McCarthy was found, alone and bloody, on the parade route after he got separated from his parents; his father Kevin and mother Irina were both murdered by a sick creep who shouldn't have been able to get near a weapon. Strangers have donated over $2,200,000 - from $10 to $18,000 each - to the "sweet boy," now an orphan; they've also sent prayers, love, grievous notes. "Mommy and Daddy will always be with you," they wrote. "I'm so sorry little guy." Read it and weep. Also rage.

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Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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