Kamala Harris calls for federal assault weapons ban in wake of Highland Park shooting

Highland Park, Illinois - Less than 36 hours after a shooter opened fire at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, killing seven people, Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in the north suburb Tuesday evening calling for federal action on assault weapons.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks a day after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade route in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks a day after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade route in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.  © KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP

"We've got to be smarter as a country in terms of who has access to what, in particular assault weapons," said Harris, who was joined by Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and other Democratic politicians.

"And we've got to take this stuff seriously," she continued. "The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy to understand that this could happen anywhere in any peace-loving community. And we should stand together and speak out about why it's got to stop."

Earlier in the day, Harris called for reinstituting a national assault weapon ban.

"We have more to do. We have more to do. Congress needs to have the courage to act and renew the assault weapons ban," Harris told a group of educators at the National Education Association conference at McCormick Place in Chicago."We need reasonable gun safety laws. And we need to have Congress stop protecting those gun manufacturers with the liability shield. Repeal it. Repeal it."

A few hours later, in a short speech given in the heart of Highland Park, Harris offered condolences from President Joe Biden.

"You know that you have a whole nation that cares deeply about you, and stands with you. This is an incredibly tight community. I know that," Harris said. "And this person will be brought to justice, but it's not going to undo what happened. And we're here for you and we stand with you."

Illinois governor also calls for assault weapon ban

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker  © SAUL LOEB / AFP

Just hours before Harris visited Highland Park, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker advocated for a state-level ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines while also calling for similar action on a federal level.

"We urgently need federal regulation on the weapons of war and high capacity magazines that are used only for mass murder," Pritzker said in a statement. "Illinois is not an island, and even with … some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, our state is only as safe as the state with the weakest laws – many of which border Illinois."

The comments from Harris and Pritzker come amid a national debate about mass shootings and gun control efforts. Pritzker's opponent in the fall, Republican nominee Darren Bailey, a state senator from Downstate Xenia, is an ardent gun rights supporter who opposes firearms regulations.

On Tuesday, Bailey continued to try to walk back comments he made after the shooting when he posted a video on Facebook praying for victims and law enforcement and declared "let's move on and let's celebrate" the holiday.

Bailey took to Twitter Tuesday to pivot from that sentiment and urged the public to "commit to better addressing mental health in Illinois and across the nation."

Cover photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP

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