A 2 year-old left orphaned when his parents were murdered.

A dedicated synagogue congregant and a grandfather visiting from Mexico left dead.

An 8 year-old shot in the chest and likely paralyzed from the waist down.

These are some of the victims of last week’s Independence Day shooting in Highland Park that killed seven people and wounded 38. The high number of casualties was caused by an AR-15 assault rifle, which is increasingly the weapon of choice for violent men who target innocent people.

This weapon of war left one victim with half of their head missing. Other victims had their bodies and internal organs splattered on the street. The graphic barbarity of how these weapons destroyed their victims is why the Leaders Network has been calling for a ban on assault weapons for more than a decade.

It is also why the Leaders Network were in Highland Park on July 8 – to stand with the victims of America’s latest mass shooting.

“We are going to support our neighbors and to offer our prayers,” Pastor Ira J. Acree said before making the trip to Highland Park. “It’s the least we can do as we continue our advocacy for the ban of assault weapons.”

“Our parishioners have been heartbroken thinking of the baby McCarthy being left alone and all the victims in Highland Park,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch Sr., pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. “People understand that the tears and pain from gun violence in West Garfield Park and Highland Park hurts all the same.”

In addition to the mass shooting in Highland Park, the Independence Day weekend statistics totaled an unacceptable 72 shootings in Chicago.

The Leaders Network is dedicated to stopping all of this violence, regardless of the race or ZIP code of the victims. Any new gun legislation by Congress must finally include a complete ban on all assault weapons, the group says.

Separately, Rev. Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, released the following statement on state Sen. Darren Bailey’s insensitive comments regarding the Highland Park mass shooting and his record on fighting gun violence:

“It is offensive and downright disqualifying for Darren Bailey to use Chicago’s Black and Brown communities as a talking point. Mr. Bailey voted against all of the historic funding for violence prevention programs championed by Gov. Pritzker and is desperately attempting to steer the narrative away from his own abysmal failures.

Bailey’s “extreme views and belief that unmitigated access to guns actually keeps people safe is out of touch with reality and may be why it was so easy for him to tell people to ‘move on’ just 90 minutes after a mass shooting,” Acree said in a statement.

Bailey, the Republican nominee running against Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzer, has repeatedly voted against necessary funding for mental health services along with gun violence prevention and public safety programs, Acree pointed out.

The minister added that Bailey a few years ago raffled off an assault weapon that was nearly identical to the one used in the Highland Park massacre and has called Chicago a “hellhole.”

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com