If there’s a Christmas wish most of us can agree on for the coming year it is an end to the pervasive gun violence in communities across Illinois. Despite the best intentions, shootings continue to vex us.
One tact to end the killing zones is banning the sale of military-style assault rifles. That’s one of the issues heard this month during three days of hearings before a state legislative committee.
Other issues being addressed include restricting extended magazines for weapons, and raising the age for state Firearm Owners Identification cards to 21.
But Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart may have touched on the best way to make young shooters accountable: Arrest their parents.
Taking a page from the playbook of Michigan authorities, Lake County lawmen late last week charged Highwood resident Robert Crimo Jr., with seven counts of felony reckless conduct. He is the father of Robert Crimo III who faces murder charges in connection with the Highland Park parade shootings on the Fourth of July.
Who doesn’t applaud the action by Highland Park police and Rinehart’s office? If parents want to sign for FOID cards and foster the purchase of weapons for their children, why shouldn’t they be held accountable?
That’s also the case in Oakland County, Michigan, where prosecutors have alleged similar crimes against the suburban Detroit parents whose 15-year-old son allegedly killed four and wounded seven in a shooting at his high school. They have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, to which they have pleaded not guilty.
Crimo senior, who once ran for mayor of Highland Park, is expected to plead not guilty. Authorities allege he was criminally reckless at the time he helped his son procure a state FOID card.
Helping his young son obtain the card, which is required to own a weapon in Illinois, was a contributing cause to the mass shooting in which seven people were killed and 48 wounded, authorities allege. A Lake County judge found “probable cause” for the charges, and issued the warrant for his arrest. If convicted, he could be sentenced to three years in prison.
Robert Crimo III has been in the Lake County jail since his arrest for the July 4 massacre. He is facing 117 charges related to the shootings he allegedly undertook with an assault-style weapon.
As an individual under the age of 21, Crimo III was unable to obtain a FOID card without his father’s participation in the application process. According to the state’s attorney, Robert Crimo Jr. sponsored his son’s FOID card when the accused shooter was 19.
Authorities say he sponsored him even though he was aware his son had suicidal thoughts and had threatened to kill family members. “He knew what he knew, and he signed the form anyway,” Rinehart said.
At a news conference last week to announce the Crimo Jr., charges, Rinehart pointed out that since the shootings federal and local investigators have been combing through enormous amounts of digital evidence and analyzing the data. “Our Cyber Lab personnel were critical partners on the team that helped us uncover the truth of the critical weeks before the FOID was issued,” he said.
While parents should know if their charges are mature and responsible enough to handle weapons, too often they surrender to the wishes of their kids. After all, who wants to be the bad dad if a child wants a weapon.
That includes a Red Ryder BB carbine with a compass in the stock as young Ralphie craved in the 1983 film, “A Christmas Story.” He nearly put his eye out.
Another way to curb gun violence is underway in Chicago where the City Council earlier this month approved an ordinance to fine those who illegally possess firearms. Most responsible gun owners sign up for the state FOID card.
Criminals do not. They also don’t buy firearm insurance, as some cities and states require of gun owners, arguing if car owners need liability insurance to drive, so should those who own pistols and rifles.
In Chicago, for the first violation illegal gun owners will be hit with a $5,000 fine and up to three months in jail. Caught with illegally possessing a firearm the second time and the fine is $20,000 and six months in jail.
Hitting gun violators in their pocketbooks has been the law for the Transportation Security Administration. TSA is raising fines to more than $14,000 for those who insist on taking firearms on jetliners in their carry-on luggage, according to The Associated Press.
There are ways to curtail gun violence. Accountability and monetary enforcement are easy beginnings.
Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.
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December 21, 2022 at 10:26PM