Jul 3, 2023 - News

Highland Park looks back one year after deadly July 4 parade shooting

memorial to the dead

Flowers and cards near a spot where a mass shooting occurred during the Fourth of July parade last year. Photo: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tuesday marks one year since a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park left seven people dead.

Driving the news: The northern suburb will observe a moment of silence at 10:14am Tuesday, followed by a community walk down the parade route, the Tribune reports.

  • Anyone who wants to attend must register in advance, and organizers will screen attendees through metal detectors.

The big picture: The somber memorial comes as Illinois' ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — introduced by Highland Park Rep. Bob Morgan and signed into law in January — is being challenged in federal court.

Zoom in: Frustration around stalled gun reform legislation has prompted one Highland Park teen to take action.

  • 18-year-old Jacob Hoyt joined Project Unloaded, which uses social media to encourage open conversations about gun safety, after witnessing the parade shooting with his high school robotics team last summer.

What they're saying: "Project Unloaded is basically saying, 'Hey, we're trying to change the culture around owning a gun,'" Hoyt told Axios. "I don't think anyone else has really tried this. And so it's worth giving it a shot."

How it works: Project Unloaded uses TikTok influencers and digital ads to get information about gun safety to teenagers, according to founder Nina Vinik.

  • Vinik says Project Unloaded is really aimed at Gen Z. "They rank gun violence as a top tier issue of concern, ahead of reproductive rights, ahead of climate change. They really feel this issue very, very personally," Vinik says of the young people they surveyed.

Zoom out: Vinik says Project Unloaded is motivated by the success of the Truth campaign about smoking. "Twenty years ago, about a quarter of U.S. teens were cigarette smokers. Today, it's less than 3%," Vinik says.

  • And they aren't just speaking to suburban teens like Jacob. Project Unloaded is developing campaigns for urban centers that have high rates of gun violence, like Chicago's West Side.
  • She points to data from the Crime Lab showing that over the last three years, an average of one mass shooting a week has occurred in Chicago proper, but it's the more affluent, predominantly white communities that get the media attention when tragedies happen.

What's ahead: The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Thursday from plaintiffs challenging the assault weapons ban. It's unclear when they'll make a ruling, but for now the law remains in place while the legal battle continues.


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