A little over a month ago, the massacre at an elementary school in Texas shook the United States to its foundations. Now a gunman opens fire on a parade on Independence Day.

A gunman opened fire at a US National Day parade in a suburb of Chicago, killing at least six people.

Chief Officer at the scene, Chris O’Neill, said 24 people were taken to hospitals after the shelling in Highland Park, Illinois. The shooter was initially not caught. A weapon was found at the crime scene. The suspect is described as a white male between the ages of 18 and 20.

Highland Parks Mayor Nancy Rotering urged people to avoid downtown. The administration of the small town with around 30,000 inhabitants said: “Numerous police officers are on duty and have cordoned off downtown Highland Park.” A spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said it appeared the gunman fired indiscriminately from the roof of a commercial building at bystanders. The firearm found was a “powerful rifle”. Assault rifles are usually used for such bloody crimes in the USA.

Eyewitness: Heard around 30 pops

The background of the fact is not known at first. An eyewitness named Miles Zaremski told CNN that he saw several injured and lifeless people lying on the ground. “It was heartbreaking.” He heard around 30 pops. People fled the parade. “It was just chaotic.”

The parade started at 10:00 a.m. (local time/5:00 p.m. CEST). A short time later the first shots were fired. “This morning at 10:14 a.m., our community was terrorized by an act of violence that shocked us deeply,” said Mayor Rotering. O’Neill said police and rescue workers were present at the parade and responded immediately. After the parade, a US Independence Day celebration was planned in Highland Park, which the mayor canceled after the bloody crime.

More than 50 gun violence deaths a day

The US has long struggled with massive levels of gun violence. At the end of May, an 18-year-old gunman massacred a Texas elementary school. He killed 19 children and 2 teachers in the small town of Uvalde before being shot by the police. The police were then criticized because they only entered the classroom where the shooter was holed up after a long delay. Just over a week earlier, an 18-year-old perpetrator shot ten people in the US city of Buffalo, investigators assume a racist motive.

The killing sprees had rekindled the discussion about stricter gun laws. Firearms are often readily available in the United States. According to the CDC, nearly 20,000 people were shot dead in the United States in 2020 – more than 50 a day.

Biden “shocked by senseless gun violence”

US President Joe Biden said he was “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has once again brought grief to an American community on Independence Day”. His statement said: “I will not give up the fight against the epidemic of gun violence.” Biden and his Democrats have long called for tougher gun laws. Far-reaching reforms repeatedly fail due to opposition from Republicans in Congress and the influence of the powerful gun lobby organization NRA.

Last month, amid the shooting rampages in Texas and elsewhere, Congress passed a bipartisan gun violence law that fell far short of Biden’s proposed reforms. Experts rated the tightening of gun laws as the most important since the mid-1990s. The content of the law, however, is only a non-partisan minimum compromise, which critics reprimand as completely inadequate.

The law, signed by Biden late last month, provides for more intensive screening of gun buyers under the age of 21. It is also about expanding state laws to take weapons away from potential threats. Illegal arms trafficking should be punishable at the federal level. In addition, billions are to flow into mental health care and anti-violence programs. Additional funds are also earmarked for the safety of schools. The ban on assault rifles demanded by Biden and his Democrats is missing from the law.

Amid the debate over gun violence, the US Supreme Court extended the right to carry guns in public last month. The Supreme Court in Washington overturned a more than 100-year-old New York state law that required you to have valid reason to obtain a license to carry a handgun concealed outside the home.