'We have a voice': Lake County Board members want to push for gun control measures
With recollections vivid and emotions raw more than a week later, the mass shooting at the Independence Day parade in Highland Park hung heavy at Tuesday's Lake County Board meeting.
Condolences to the victims and their families, thanks to those who assisted and comforted those in need, promises to pursue gun control measures and a reminder that the impacts won't soon fade transcended the scheduled business of the day.
Special recognition was given to the hundreds of local, regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies, fire and emergency services departments, dispatch centers and volunteers who pursued the gunman, tended to the wounded, reunited children with their families and helped parade attendees escape the terrifying mayhem.
Seven people were killed and a few dozen injured in the attack. A 21-year-old Highwood man has been charged with killing seven people and is in jail with no chance of bail.
First responders risked their lives to save strangers, and many others, including community-based organizations and medical personnel, offered critically needed resources for the recovery and healing process, reads the official recognition of the efforts.
The board extended the declaration of a local disaster until Aug. 9 as "significant resources" will be required to support residents and communities through long-term recovery efforts.
Board Chair Sandy Hart made the declaration on July 8 for seven days. The designation provides access to state and federal personnel and financial resources, and it suspends certain county procedures in order to provide emergency assistance.
Board member Paul Frank, who represents Highland Park, was at the parade staging area with his family. He commended the work and leadership of first responders.
"The emergency response from our sheriff, fire, police and all the coordinating entities gave the community a great sense of confidence even before the suspect was named or apprehended," he said.
He also thanked fellow board members for their support and invited them to visit as the downtown has reopened.
"There are multiple memorial sites. They are sad but beautiful expressions of grief and community, and I invite you to visit and see how people are feeling," Frank said. "The community does feel supported. People do feel the caring, and it's so appreciated."
Frank and board member Paras Parekh, who represents portions of Highland Park and also was at the parade, asked that a statewide ban on the sale and possession of assault rifles and other measures be added to the county's legislative agenda.
Doing so would allow the county staff and its lobbyists to push for specific legislation on behalf of the full board. Discussion is pending.
"We have a voice," Frank said after the meeting. "We do not have authority to regulate firearms as a county, but we can tell the state legislature and our federal legislators that this is important to Lake County and we want you to ban the sale of mass murder weapons."
After the shooting, Parekh said his 10-year-old daughter asked why one person is allowed to change everything.
"She's right. Why would we allow one person to carry such power in their two hands to destroy a community?" he said. "This cycle of cruelty must end."
Frank said he hoped that through its gun violence prevention initiative Lake County can replicate the community response felt by Highland Park in other communities affected by gun violence.
"I think that's important that we keep that in mind, and I hope that we as a board can add our voice to advocacy to make real, substantial changes to reduce the chances of future incidents of mass murder," he said.