Opinion | “Land of the Free”: US’ ironic relationship with guns


While we were all enjoying our summer and preparing to celebrate one of the most monumental holidays in the country’s history, July 4th, the last thing we expected was terror to strike on a day that is typically synonymous with joy and relaxation.. During this year’s July 4th parade in Highland Park, a suburban city roughly about a 20-minute drive from Evanston, experienced a mass shooting that went viral around the nation. On that day, the 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo wore women’s clothing to disguise himself and hide himself amongst crowds of people. Shortly after he fired multiple rounds at the crowds from a building perch, he ran alongside with the unsuspecting innocent spectators to “blend right in”, says County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli. 

Crimo, who has been accused of taking the lives of 7 people and injuring about 30 more, sat in court on Aug. 3 and pleaded not guilty on all 117 counts: 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. According to the Lake Counties Sheriff’s Office, Crimo had been planning the attack for several weeks. Many of the people who attended the parade reported on articles describing the event as “heartbreaking” and “devastating”.

While many of the families grief for the loss of their loved ones, we can also support Highland Parks victims who have survived to tell their stories. One of the injured survivors shares her story and says it was “a miracle she even survived”. Lorena Rebollar Sedano reports that after she was shot amongst the crowd, she ran into a store for safety with her family. While in the store she recalls strangers asking her if she was okay and she replied with “yes”. Despite her shoe being filled with blood, she insisted that she was fine worrying about the ones around her. Four of her other family members that she was with were also harmed and are all recovering safely to this day. Bystanders on the internet, news reports, and neighboring suburbs still share their support for the victims on that day.

On this day, I remember opening my phone to articles about another tragic event and, deep down, I immediately thought, “This happens every other day.” In a way, I had gotten used to mass shootings—feeling almost numb to seeing articles upon articles about how much harm people cause due to the country’s relationship with guns. But my attention changed once I found out how close this incident was to Evanston. Once news outlets started reporting on the incident, I remember the effect it had on our community—seeing annual events, cookouts, etc. being canceled all because of something that didn’t personally affect us. Even though we were lucky enough to not undergo such a tragedy, we were still hit with a big wave of sympathy, which forced us to reflect on our own community. In a way, I saw the cancelation of these events as Evanston not only keeping us safe, but as an avenue to show our support towards Highland Park. 

When I think of guns and the people who fight for the Second Amendment to stay strong I think of the classic patriotic American, and their argument for protecting guns feels ironic. On July 4th, we celebrate the founding of the United States. While some people like to scream, “It’s a free country,” once mass shootings occur, their responses remind us what Modern America is really all about. Modern America is presented as the ideal dream and “The Land Of The Free,” but events like these bring to light what we have done with our freedom. 

In some ways, I can see the logic behind why people would question why we were given the freedom to bear arms, yet have gun reform bills which appear to be rescinding that right. Our lack of strictness towards these laws has not only shown in our area but around the United States as well. But when the Highland Park tragedy occurred, just as so many other mass shootings have in recent years, we were reminded exactly of why we need gun reform bills in place and why we need to keep pushing for reform that is palliative rather than yet another band-aid that fails to address the underlying problem.