After the Highland Park attack, Senate hearing on ‘Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings’

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering will be among those testifying at the Wednesday Senate Judiciary Committee hearing starting at 9 a.m. Chicago time.

SHARE After the Highland Park attack, Senate hearing on ‘Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings’
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering at a news conference outside the Highland Park Police Department, less than 24 hours after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens more by firing a high-powered rifle from a rooftop onto a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering at a news conference outside the Highland Park Police Department, less than 24 hours after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens more by firing a high-powered rifle from a rooftop onto a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — The massacres in Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Park, where people were quickly killed and wounded by gunmen using assault rifles with high capacity magazines, has thrown a spotlight — again — on the issue of selling military grade weapons to civilians.

While the latest slaughters reignited calls for an assault weapons ban, getting votes to limit access to weapons best suited for a battlefield is — has been, and for the moment, seems destined to still be — difficult to impossible in Congress. Which doesn’t mean activists should stop pushing to find more Republican votes.

Which brings us to Wednesday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., presides over a hearing titled, “After the Highland Park Attack: Protecting Our Communities from Mass Shootings.”

A large contingent from Lake County will be in the audience for the hearing, to start at 9 a.m. Chicago time.

The July 4th Highland Park parade attack killed seven, wounded dozens and left entire communities traumatized. According to the Judiciary Committee, Highland Park was the 309th mass shooting this year.

The hearing “will focus on the dangers of widespread civilian access to military-style assault weapons that can be used to kill large numbers of people in mere seconds” and one of the featured witnesses will be Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.

Rotering brings a unique perspective to the tragedy because as mayor she was the driving force behind Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, passed by the North Shore suburb’s City Council on June 24, 2013.

Rotering has been mayor since 2011 and before that was a member of the City Council, starting in 2009.

Other witnesses invited by the Democrats are:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq war vet who on the Senate floor last week detailed the awful precision of assault weapons — designed for warfare — not for sports or even self-defense. For an “evil purpose, a semi-automatic rifle is the perfect weapon, because it is lightweight, portable and easy to load with high-capacity magazines,” Duckworth said, pleading for an assault weapons ban.

  • Dr. Kyleanne Hunter, a senior political scientist for the RAND Corporation. According to Brady, an organization long in the battle to reduce gun violence, Hunter “will specifically testify to the tactical difficulties of dealing with and stopping a mass shooter armed with an assault weapon and/or high-capacity magazines.”
  • Joseph Blocher, from the Duke University School of Law, who, according to the Duke website, in his academic work “addresses issues of gun rights and regulation, free speech, the law of the territories, and the relationship between law and violence.”

The Republican witnesses are:

  • Philip Smith, the Founder and President of National African American Gun Association, a gun rights group.
  • Russell Bentley, the co-founder and senior analyst at Safe Havens International, an organization with a focus on school safety.

Following the hearing, Durbin, Duckworth and Rotering will be joined at a news conference with state Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, whose district includes Highland Park and Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart.

The contingent traveling from Lake County to Washington includes Sandy Hart, the Lake County Board chair plus Highland Park City Council members Adam Stolberg, Andres Tapia Michelle Holleman and Annette Lidawer.

In addition, there will be two former Highland Park City Council members who voted for the 2013 assault weapons ban, Paul Frank, now on the Lake County Board representing Highland Park, Highwood and Deerfield; and Alyssa Knobel.

Esteban Carbajal, an immigration attorney at the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, will be in the audience. I asked him on Tuesday why he made the trip.

Not speaking for the clinic, Carbajal, a Highwood resident who was at the parade with his mother and sister, told me he came to Washington to attend the hearing “to be a silent witness.”

Said Carbajal, “This just can’t be the new normal in the country.”

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