Highland Park mayor, Gov. Pritzker join Biden to mark passing of gun safety law

Biden called the legislation 'an important start,' but it's little comfort to those affected by mass shootings

ByCraig Wall, Liz Nagy, and Christian Piekos via WLS logo
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
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Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Governor JB Pritzker and others joined President Joe Biden to commemorate the passage of a bipartisan gun law.

WASHINGTON (WLS) -- Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Gov. JB Pritzker and other leaders joined President Joe Biden at the White House Monday to commemorate the passage of landmark bipartisan gun safety legislation.

Highland Park Police Cmdr. Chris O'Neill and Congressman Brad Schneider were also at the event, which comes one week after the Highland Park mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade.

Biden touted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which expands background checks, encourages states to pass red flag laws and includes changes to the mental health system.

"Will we match thoughts and prayers with action? I say yes, and that's what we're doing here today," Biden said.

This is the first meaningful piece of gun legislation to become law in 30 years. The president signed it into law at the end of June.

The families of gun violence victims, as well as survivors, from the Highland Park, Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings, were also present at the White House.

Pritzker and Rotering reiterated theirs and the president's call for a national ban on assault weapons.

"We in Highland Park banned assault weapons nine years ago, but we need the rest of the country, obviously, to catch up with us," Rotering told reporters in a gaggle outside the White House. "The fact that guns in these shootings are legally obtained says that these laws need to be changed."

Pritzker said the solution couldn't just rest at the state or local level; Illinois is surrounded by states with less restrictive gun laws.

"We can do our best, and we believe strongly in the state of Illinois in protecting our citizens from these kinds of weapons, but if the states around us don't, then what are we to do?" Pritzker said. "So that's why we need a national ban."

As Illinois Lawmakers prepare to address gun violence, perhaps in a special session next month, Pritzker said meaningful change has to happen at a national level, and there has to be a sense of urgency.

State Representative Bob Morgan, who's district includes Highland Park, joined the mayor and others. He is hopeful the Safer Communities Act can be a roadmap for more bi-partisanship on gun safety.

"I think that there's a hope that this assortment of Democrats and Republicans from all across the country can come together and continue to push forward on legislation that can protect all communities regardless of whether they live in a red or blue state," Morgan said.

Some gun reform activists and progressive Democrats have expressed dissatisfaction with what they believe is a lack of urgency on the White House's part.

Pritzker said they should focus on Congress.

"We need to make sure, as activists, as those of us in public office who care about this issue, that we're talking to the congresspeople, electing people who will actually get this done, because that is truly what needs to happen," he said.

The mayor said she thought Biden should speak "to the values that we all share as Americans" - "freedom" and "a love of helping our children grow up in a clean and safe society."

"We also share a love and appreciation for our first responders," she added. "Our first responders are outgunned by these combat weapons."

Pritzker said he and Biden did not discuss 2024 election strategy at all Monday.

WATCH: 'Start' on gun legislation little comfort to those affected by mass shootings

Biden called the legislation "an important start," but a start is little comfort to the families of Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde, Chicago, and now, Highland Park, who share a bond no one wants. There was an outburst from the father of a student killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

A Chicago mother who lost her son to gun violence were also present.

ABC7 spoke with Pamela and Trevon on what the invitation to the celebration means to them.

They said this is a small step in the right direction, but there is still much to be accomplished.

"It's bittersweet because it took over 30 years before they could come up with a bipartisan bill, but it takes little steps," Bosely said. "So the celebration, I am glad to be invited because we have been doing this fight since my son Terrell, at the age of 18 in 2006, April 4, 2006, was shot and killed."

Also happening this week, a group of Highland Park moms will be rallying in D.C.

The group, called March Fourth, will be pushing for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons this Wednesday at the Capitol.

On July 20, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin will hold a hearing on the Highland Park mass shooting. Mayor Nancy Rotering is expected to testify.

ABC News contributed to this report.