‘Whether guns kill people or people kill people, something must change’
His views didn’t change overnight, but Justin Bell has come…
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — On a lazy Fourth of July morning, Nicole Estes and her husband, Steve, decided to make a quick trip to Home Depot.
Before they could pull out of their subdivision on Chicago’s North Shore, they heard the sirens.
“Police were just flying by, and it was police from different communities,” said Nicole Estes, whose family attends the Northwest Church of Christ in Chicago.
The couple knew something major had happened. Perhaps a drowning at nearby Lake Michigan, one of them speculated.
“I hope it’s not a mass shooter,” Steve Estes, an executive with Reynolds Consumer Products, told his wife.
Unfortunately, his fear proved true.
A gunman with a semi-automatic rifle unleashed more than 80 rounds from a rooftop perch, killing seven people and wounding dozens more at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade. Authorities have charged 21-year-old Robert “Bobby” Crimo III with seven counts of first-degree murder.
“We’re in Highland Park often to eat,” said Nicole Estes, who lives a few miles away in Lake Forest, the community where Crimo was arrested hours after Monday’s shooting. “The little downtown area has the quaintest little shops, and it’s a sweet little town.”
But on the heels of recent shootings at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in California, a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — among other attacks nationwide — gunfire shattered the patriotic celebration by Illinois children and parents carrying tiny U.S. flags.
“It’s just a somber place to be right now,” Nicole Estes said of the Highland Park area. “Everybody is very sad. I mean, I go to the grocery store, and it’s just a little quieter than usual.”
In the leafy suburb of 18,000 people, yellow crime scene tape now surrounds the downtown area. Makeshift memorials feature messages such as “HP Strong” and “Prayers for HP.” Police from numerous departments patrol the restricted area, while investigators with FBI jackets work inside the tape.
According to a national directory published by 21st Century Christian, there is no Church of Christ in Highland Park or nearby communities.
Maria Moore, who grew up in the McKnight Road Church of Christ (now known as McKnight Crossings) in St. Louis and later met her husband, Marc, at the Preston Road Church of Christ in Dallas, attends a nondenominational congregation in the North Shore area.
Moore and her family were swimming in a neighbor’s pool Monday night when law enforcement helicopters started fluttering overhead.
“We were like, ‘Do we need to go in our houses?’” said Moore, a 2000 graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas. “But before we could even make that decision, we heard that the suspect had been captured — right at an intersection I am at multiple times a day.”
“You never think it’s going to happen in your neighborhood,” she said. “These communities here on the North Shore are very affluent — lots of famous people and athletes and that sort of thing have lived here. It’s very Mayberry type.”
The mother of a 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, Moore said “it’s getting harder to really be able to say that we’re safe because you just don’t know anymore.”
As a person of faith, she is curious to see how her church will respond.
“Like I said, until you have it in your neighborhood, you don’t know how it’s going to affect you and how you’re going to react,” she said. “So it’s just kind of checking in on neighbors … letting them know that you’re here if they want to talk and stuff.”
Even before the Highland Park shooting, Nicole Estes — a person of deep faith whose daughters both have attended Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., which is associated with Churches of Christ — had been praying for a solution.
“I personally have been praying about the mass shootings and about the gun issues because I don’t know what the answer is,” she told The Christian Chronicle. “It’s a comfort because I know that our God is more powerful than Satan.
“It’s just sad, I think,” she said. “And I hate that our country looks like this to the rest of the world. We’ve always been this nation that’s under God, that everyone’s admired for the good that’s in America and the safety that’s in America. And now we have this happening. … It’s terrorizing to everyone.”
According to The Associated Press, the Highland Park suspect was able to purchase five guns legally despite previously trying to commit suicide and threatening to “kill everyone” in his family.
In a recent online survey, nearly 300 Chronicle readers shared a wide range of strong opinions on the subject of guns.
Among those who voiced his opinion was John Walker Moore, minister for the East End Church of Christ in East Hampton, N.Y.
“Whether guns kill people or people kill people,” Moore said of the mass shootings, “something must change … before we begin to believe this is normal, and acceptable, and an issue we can simply do nothing about.”
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.