By Ashlee Rezin
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Tuesday at a news conference on Central Avenue near Green Bay Road in downtown Highland Park, one day after a gunman killed at least seven people and wounded dozens more by firing an AR-15-style rifle from a rooftop onto a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Highland Park on Tuesday to make a condolence call the day after the July 4th parade massacre showed this suburb — which actually has an assault weapons ban in place — that indeed, it can happen here.
Bringing condolences from President Joe Biden, “from our country,” Harris said “the pain and suffering” should “never have happened.”
The suspected shooter killed seven people and wounded dozens of others on the Central Avenue parade route.
On Tuesday morning, FBI agents — obvious in their khakis and blue shirts, the front and back say “FBI” — were picking through debris on Central looking for evidence and roaming through other parts of downtown Highland Park.
Overnight, two colonies of national and local broadcast press set up shop in the suburb, bracketing the east and west sides of the barricaded Central Avenue.
Harris arrived in the afternoon — she motorcaded from McCormick Place, where she spoke to the National Education Association — in a move that was a surprise in that it was not on her schedule, but not surprising, given the tragedy and the eagerness of the Biden White House to want to be responsive to communities traumatized by mass killings.
Harris faced a wall of television cameras stretched across Central at Green Bay Road. The makeshift press area was stuffed with journalists already there for the latest briefing from law enforcement and other officials.
The site was a block or so down from where the shooter set up his sniper nest.
My observation on a point: While the suspected sniper took the trouble to disguise himself in women’s clothes to flee, he left behind his legally obtained weapon, authorities said, which made it possible to quickly trace him. He might as well just left his driver’s license.
Harris huddled with local officials and then law enforcement officers before addressing the press.
Law enforcement officials are calling the sniper’s weapon a “high powered rifle” that used large capacity magazines stuffed with lots of bullets. In other words, some type of an assault weapon.
“We’ve got to be smarter as a country in terms of who has access to what — and in particular assault weapons,” Harris said in remarks that ran about two-and-a-half minutes.
“And we got to take this stuff seriously.” The nation once had a federal assault weapons ban. It lasted 10 years, starting in 1994. Congress has refused to extend it. Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering fought to the Supreme Court for the ban in Highland Park, which obviously cannot work if it is a lonely suburban island in a sea of flowing weapons.
According to a White House official, Rotering invited Harris to Highland Park. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., state Sen. Julie Morrison and state Rep. Bob Morgan were among the elected officials representing Highland Park who were present.
Harris spoke to the sense of vulnerability that suddenly overwhelmed this suburb.
Said Harris, “The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy to understand that this can happen anywhere, in any peace-loving community,”