Highland Park mayor testifies on Capitol Hill about mass shooting
A spate of mass shootings — including the recent July 4 killings in Highland Park — has sparked a renewed push for a federal ban on military-style assault weapons.
Some who witnessed those attacks testified Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on protecting communities from mass shootings.
“I will be haunted forever,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering testified about her experience during the city’s Fourth of July parade that turned bloody. “It was a perfect summer day … a sea of children and adults in red, white and blue waving American flags.”
Rotering said it took less than a minute for the 21-year-old suspected gunman, armed with an assault weapon, to shower multiple rounds of bullets from a rooftop, wounding dozens among the crowd of roughly 3,000 paradegoers and killing seven.
“This is the norm in our country,” Rotering testified. “Highland Park had the uniquely American experience of a Fourth of July parade turned into what has now become a uniquely American experience of a mass shooting. How do we call this freedom? Other advanced nations live free of fear of gun violence.”
Wednesday’s hearing was the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 10th focused on gun violence and the dangers of widespread civilian access to military-style assault weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in seconds.
A large contingent from Lake County was in the audience for the hearing, chaired by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
Highland Park was the 309th mass shooting this year.
Rotering, who has been the city’s mayor since 2011 and a city council member before that, stressed the need to make immediate federal policy changes to reduce the risk of such horrific shootings as her “all-American, Midwestern” town endured.
She talked about the victims and survivors, and recognized the heroics of police and fire personnel “who ran directly into danger to save lives.”
“They did everything right,” she said. “They miraculously caught the shooter within hours and they are what true American heroes look like.”
Rotering said her hometown is traumatized forever from the mass attack, as were so many others before.
Rotering also lauded local doctors and volunteer community emergency response teams who “covered the dead and tended to the severely wounded as paramedics arrived.”
Rotering said other American mayors she has spoken with over the past few weeks “fear not if, but when a mass shooting is going to hit our towns.”
Civilians having easy access to assault rifles with high capacity magazines and military grade weapons is the problem, said Rotering, who pushed through a citywide ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
“We knew that a federal ban would be the most effective, but a local ban reflecting the values of our community was our only option under the law,” Rotering said. “Local governments cannot do this alone. Congress must take action. You must federally ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Today is the day to start saving lives.”