Fed up with repeated mass shootings, hundreds of people from the Chicago area took part in a march in Washington, D.C., Monday to call for a federal ban on assault guns.
Among them was Lindsey Hartman, who survived the Fourth of July mass shooting during a parade in her hometown of Highland Park last year. She and her husband threw themselves on top of their 4-year-old daughter to protect her, as people next to them were shot and killed.
The Save Our Students march was organized by March Fourth, a nonpartisan group founded by Kitty Brandtner of Winnetka.
Brandtner and her children were at the July Fourth parade in neighboring Winnetka when the Highland Park shooting occurred, and they had to run and take cover because the gunman was on the loose.
Seven people were killed and dozens injured in the Highland Park shooting.
Demands for stronger gun control have continued since, Brandtner said, including recently after a shooting in March that killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville.
“I can’t understand why we decided this was OK,” she said Monday of the repeated mass shootings. “We are simply asking for a federal assault weapons ban now.”
While Americans differ over gun control measures, marchers said, everyone wants to prevent mass shootings. Sixty-seven percent of Americans support an assault weapons ban, according to a 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center, while a Gallup poll last year put the support at 55%.
Mass shootings in the United States have been increasing in recent years, nearly doubling since 2018, to about 700 last year, GunViolenceArchive.org reported.
Gun rights advocates say the term assault weapons is vague and misleading. Proposed federal bills to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, such as Senate Bill 25, define them by various criteria, including semi-automatic rifles and handguns that take more than 10 rounds.
Illinois lawmakers passed an assault weapons ban this year. A federal judge heard arguments last week about a challenge to the constitutionality of the law by the Illinois State Rifle Association and others. A federal judge previously upheld the law in another case.
Some state court judges have prevented the law from taking effect against more than 1,000 plaintiffs who filed suit, and one case is pending before the Illinois Supreme Court.
Also Monday, a bipartisan group of 162 mayors in the United States Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Congress urging action on gun safety legislation. Among the mayors who signed were Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot and Highland Park’s Nancy Rotering.
Todd Vandermyde of Yorkville, a former lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Illinois, said state and federal bans are unconstitutional under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, because they attempt to prohibit commonly used weapons.
Socioeconomic factors, such as a lack of parents with good jobs, failing schools and poor mental health treatment, are the root causes of most gun violence, he said.
Citing long-running gun violence in the city of Chicago despite its handgun ban that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2010, Vandermyde said, “Bans don’t work.”
Christopher Koper, author of a U.S. Department of Justice report on the prior federal ban, said a new ban would not be a panacea for gun crime but could reduce some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.