Vice President Kamala Harris called for tighter gun restrictions, including a nationwide ban on assault weapons, “to end this horror” during a Chicago appearance Tuesday evening, a day after a gunman killed seven and wounded dozens more at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park.
Harris’ trip to the city to speak at an annual meeting of the National Education Association was announced three days before America’s latest mass-casualty horror hit the North Shore suburb.
She capped her visit with a stop in Highland Park to meet with local officials and police officers.
Earlier, the nation’s first woman and person of color to occupy the vice president’s office struck a somber tone before thousands of teachers at McCormick Place while taking the first five minutes of her speech to condemn the massacre and push for “reasonable gun safety laws.”
“Yesterday should have been the day to come together with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s independence. And instead, that community suffered a violent tragedy — children, parents, grandparents — victims to a senseless act of gun violence,” Harris said. “We all grieve for the lives that are forever changed in that community, including, of course, the students and the teachers of that community who have suffered great loss.
“We need to end this horror. We need to stop this violence. And we must protect our communities from the terror of gun violence,” Harris said, noting that the Highland Park tragedy was the latest in a steady drumbeat of mass shooting terror across the U.S.
“Here we are and our nation is still mourning the loss of those 19 babies and their two teachers in Uvalde … Teachers should not have to practice barricading a classroom,” she said to massive applause. “Teachers should not have to know how to treat a gunshot wound. And teachers should not be told that lives would have been saved if only you had a gun.”
Harris touted the first significant gun regulations passed by Congress in 30 years and signed by President Joe Biden last month. The bipartisan legislation signed by Biden June 25 expands background checks for gun buyers younger than 21, sets aside millions of dollars to incentivize states to enact red-flag laws confiscating guns from people deemed dangerous by a judge, and stiffens penalties for straw purchasers.
But the White House has acknowledged those measures still likely won’t prevent future massacres similar to the one that has roiled the Chicago area.
“We have more to do,” Harris said. “Congress needs to have the courage to act, and renew the assault weapons ban. … An assault weapon is designed to kill a lot of human beings, quickly. There is no reason that we have weapons of war on the streets of America. We need reasonable gun safety laws.”
For the remainder of her 25-minute speech to representatives of one of the largest labor unions in the country, Harris touted the administration’s education investments effort to boost union organizing.
After the speech, Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, stopped in Highland Park, exiting their motorcade near the crime scene. The vice president spoke with local officials and police officers and briefly addressed the crowd.
Afterward, local residents applauded, according to a pool report.
“Thank you for coming,” some locals shouted.
In May, Biden visited Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, after catastrophic gun violence hit those cities.
In a press briefing hours before Harris’ speech, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president hasn’t made plans to visit Highland Park, but she didn’t rule it out. Biden is scheduled to speak Wednesday in Ohio.
Biden issued a statement Monday saying he was “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”