Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering sits down with ABC7 nearly 1 year after deadly parade shooting

'We have normalized this violence': Highland Park mayor calls for assault weapons ban

Ravi Baichwal Image
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Highland Park mayor sits down with ABC7 nearly 1 year after shooting
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering again called for a national assault weapons ban nearly one year after a mass shooting killed seven people.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Day after day, it is the trauma, the loss, the pain and, frankly, the fear and terror.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering lives the horror of last year's Fourth of July parade daily. But, she is using her experience to heal what she says is America's addiction to weapons of war in neighborhoods.

"In this country, we have normalized this violence. So, that's horrible for that community, and then people 'move on.' But, for that community, it continues," Rotering said.

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She spoke of the day seven people were killed one year ago, when a shooter took aim at that most wholesome of traditions - the Fourth of July parade. Rotering was part of the celebration. She heard what she thought were drum beats, then, the screaming.

"They all said, 'someone has been shot,' which just was inconceivable to me, because here we are, so joyful, and then, in a split second, that gut-wrenching, sinking feeling of, 'No, no, no, not us. Not here, not today'" Rotering said.

After spending the past year laying victims to rest and helping a wounded community try to get back a sense of normalcy, the mayor's life took on a new momentum as she traveled to Springfield, Washington and global capitals to push for a ban on assault weapons.

"When we hear of other communities, suffering the same horrific fate, it brings it all back," Rotering said. "It seems like a human rights violation that we're living under these conditions."

READ MORE | Highland Park shooting survivor recounts being shot amid push for increased gun safety legislation

The U.S. Justice Department said in 2022, 646 American communities experienced a mass casualty shooting event.

"We are number 309. Thousands were traumatized, dozens were injured and seven precious people lost their lives for no reason other than this country hasn't taken the necessary steps to ban these weapons," Rotering said.

As the marking of a year approaches, Highland Park is taking time to plan and eventually build a permanent memorial to those who fell. It's more time to heal and ponder, in a gentle rock garden, where the town of 30,000 friends go from here. It's also where Rotering renewed her commitment to alter the calculus of legislators wedded to their notions of freedom and gun ownership.

"You were there, and you ran for your life. When they see you and know that you manage the trauma of so many others, what did they say to you, given their position?" asked ABC7's Ravi Baichwal.

"So, those who are supportive are clearly very supportive. Those who are not, there's one more that comes to my mind. That word is 'craven,' because when you look at somebody who has endured what we have endured, and stated that was because we live in Chicago, and then they go back to doing whatever they're doing on their phone, or they switch and talk about mental illness. Every country in this world has folks who are working through mental illness challenges. They don't have this kind of mass violence," Rotering said.

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The mayor said it is common sense that an assault weapons ban, such as one that existed between 1994 and 2004, could prevent more mass shootings. She noted that mass shooting deaths dropped by 70% during that time span.