Fox News seizes on Highland Park shooting to push the tired lie that gun reform doesn’t work

After a mass shooting during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, Fox News personalities quickly tried to claim the tragedy proved that the state’s existing gun laws don’t work.

During a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, a 21-year-old alleged gunman opened fire from the rooftop of a nearby building, killing 7 people and injuring at least 30 more. After firing more than 70 rounds into the crowd with what police are describing as a rifle “similar to an AR-15,” the gunman fled in his mother’s car and was apprehended by law enforcement after an eight-hour manhunt.

In the day following the shooting, Fox News predictably tried to imply that because Illinois has several strong gun laws on the books — including universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, waiting periods, and minimum age purchasing laws — this shooting proves that no laws work to prevent gun violence.

  • During the July 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, network contributor Leo Terrell insisted the Highland Park shooting demonstrates that extreme risk protection orders, commonly referred to as “red flag laws,” “will never, ever work. Why? Because family members who are aware of the problem are not going to turn in their children, their sons, their daughters.”
  • During an America’s Newsroom segment about the mass shooting in Highland Park, Fox co-anchor Bill Hemmer said, “There’s another point to be made here,” given the number of people shot throughout the city of Chicago over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Fox News contributor Ted Williams called it “unbelievable but not shocking,” and urged the city to do something, namely to loosen supposed restrictions on police officers and let them “do their jobs.” Williams went on to say there were maybe more people shot in Chicago over the holiday weekend than in Ukraine. Co-anchor Dana Perino added that Illinois has an “A-” grade from gun violence prevention group the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and noted there is a push to make many of those laws federal, but said the gunman was still able to commit a “horrific crime.”
  • An hour later, Hemmer implied gun laws don’t serve a purpose when he asked his guest — a former NYPD officer — if anything in the landmark gun violence prevention bill recently passed by Congress, would have stopped this mass shooting (ignoring the fact that mass shootings make up only 1% of all gun deaths).
  • During the July 5 edition of Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner listed the gun laws that Illinois currently has on the books before saying “these are some of the things people say work,” implying that gun laws don’t effectively prevent violence.
  • During the July 5 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy called it “upsetting” that the focus in the aftermath of a mass shooting is on the weapon used by the gunman, and Faulkner repeated that Illinois has “some of the strictest gun laws in the country.” Fox’s David Asman criticized media for focusing on “the details of guns and what laws work and what laws don’t work,” instead bemoaning what he called an “emotional sickness in this country right now” and the “failure to recognize good and evil.” Asman’s solution to the plague of gun violence in the United States was to focus on God, because if you “don’t have God on your side, you’re not going to defeat evil.”

Right-wing media routinely trot out this same tired narrative after nearly every mass shooting, but especially those occurring in the greater Chicagoland area.

The reality is that while Illinois does have several strong gun laws in effect, about half of the guns used in crimes there actually come from surrounding states with looser gun laws. And while conservative media have spent years trying to convince viewers that no laws aimed at gun violence prevention can possibly work, the data are clear. States with stricter gun laws, like California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon, have some of the lowest gun homicide rates, while states with the loosest gun laws have some of the highest. In fact, Illinois — including Chicago, which has become a magnet for out-of-state guns — ranks 27th nationwide in gun deaths per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the frequent right-wing media fixation on gun violence in Chicago, Illinois' relatively strong gun safety laws save countless lives annually.