At White House gun law event a week after parade massacre, Biden wears ‘Highland Park Strong’ ribbon

President Biden has been criticized for not doing enough on guns. Gov. Pritzker defended Biden. “He agrees more needs to be done, and he is passionate about this.”

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President Joe Biden wearing an “HP STRONG” ribbon at the White House event to mark passage of a gun law he signed on June 25, before the July 4th massacre in Highland Park.

President Joe Biden wearing an “HP STRONG” ribbon at the White House event to mark passage of a gun law he signed on June 25, before the July 4th massacre in Highland Park.

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WASHINGTON — Before President Joe Biden marked a new law aimed at reducing gun violence at a large ceremony Monday on the South Lawn of the White House, he met privately in the Oval Office with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and Highland Park police commander Chris O’Neill.

At the White House after the event to mark a new gun law — signed before the July 4th Highland Park parade massacre — Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Highland Park Police Cmdr. Chris O’Neill.

At the White House after the event to mark a new gun law — signed before the July 4th Highland Park parade massacre — Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Highland Park Police Cmdr. Chris O’Neill.

photo by Lynn Sweet

It was, almost to the hour, a week after a gunman using an assault weapon opened fired at 10:14 a.m. Central time and killed seven people and wounded dozens of others at the Highland Park July 4th parade.

This big event to highlight the new law Biden signed on June 25 — the first gun control measure in almost three decades — only underscored, especially in the wake of Highland Park, the inability of Congress to pass an assault weapons ban or even put limits on high-capacity magazines.

The nation had an assault weapons ban between 1994 and 2004, but the votes have not been there to renew it, no matter the growing number of massacres by gunmen using assault rifles.

Rotering was wearing an orange ribbon — orange being the color to raise awareness about gun violence — stamped “HP STRONG.” In the Oval Office, Rotering took the ribbon off her jacket and handed it to Biden. A short time later, when Biden appeared at the podium to showcase the new gun law, he was wearing, under his American flag pin, the “HP STRONG” ribbon.

This bipartisan deal is the direct result of the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, and the May 14 massacre at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store that left 10 dead.

At the start of the ceremony, Biden acknowledged the Highland Park massacre. “I want to particularly thank the governor of Illinois and the mayor of Highland Park for being here. We had a number of conversations immediately after the attack in Highland Park and I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve handled things. And as the three of us have discussed, we have more to do.”

The “more to do” is to pass an assault weapons ban.

Joining Biden at the event was Vice President Kamala Harris, who paid a condolence call in Highland Park last Tuesday.

In calling for an assault weapons ban, Biden said, “We’re living in a country awash in weapons of war.”

The South Lawn was full of elected officials, advocates, survivors and people whose lives were ripped apart by gun violence, whether through mass shootings, with Highland Park the latest, or the gun violence impacting Chicago almost daily.

Those at the event from the Chicago area included, Cleo and Nate Pendleton, parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the teen gunned down in a park not far from the Obama home; Pam Bosley of the Terrell Bosley Anti-Violence Association and co-founder of Purpose Over Pain; Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt, whose teen son, Blair, was murdered; Delphine Cherry, mother of gun violence victims Tyler and Tyesa; Dr. Chico Tillmon, executive director of READI Chicago; Brenda Mitchell, mother of victim Kenneth Mitchell, Jr.; and Valerie Burgest, whose son Craig Williams was gunned down.

Elected officials on South Lawn included Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who will hold a hearing on the Highland Park massacre on July 20; Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., with gun violence a centerpiece of her portfolio since first elected to Congress in 2012; Reps. Bobby Rush, Danny Davis, Cheri Bustos and Lauren Underwood; and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June showed the limits of what Senate Republicans will do. There just are no — or not enough — persuadable GOP senators. The only thing to do, said Preckwinkle after the event, is, “We have more work to do in electing Democrats.”

Pritzker and Rotering talked to reporters outside the West Wing afterward.

Biden has been criticized for not doing enough. Pritzker defended Biden. “He agrees more needs to be done, and he is passionate about this.”

Nearly a decade ago, Highland Park, under Rotering, passed an assault weapons ban.

“It needs to be a national ban. These are combat weapons. The horror that we saw on July 4 should never be seen by a civilian, and it needs to end,” said Rotering.

Mitchell, from University Park, made the point after the event that no community is immune to gun violence.. As welcome as this new gun law is, said Mitchell, Highland Park “told us there is still work to do, and we still need to push the needle.”

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