HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Mothers from Highland Park, the North Shore, and other communities affected by mass shootings met with lawmakers Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., demanding that the federal government outlaw assault weapons.
Eight days ago, moms clutched their children as they ran for their lives amidst the massacre at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade. On Tuesday, behind the pillars of strength, there was a discussion about the nation’s weakness.
“This is a human rights issue. I am here as a mom,” said Ivy Domont, who will join a community of organizers, mothers, friends, families, and survivors of the July 4 massacre to ‘March Fourth‘ on Wednesday. Nearly 500 moms will rally on Capitol grounds alongside Senator Tammy Duckworth and parents of children murdered in Uvalde, Texas.
The moms held meetings with lawmakers, delivering a message stripped down to one urgent plea:
“We are asking for one thing: ban assault rifles federally. That is one thing,” said rally participant Emily Lieberman.
Domont and Lieberman attended last Monday’s parade in Highland Park and witnessed the chaotic scene unfold.
“You hear the pops in the background and instantly realize there’s a good chance we might die at any moment,” Lieberman said.
Both women say they are fighting for their lives as members of the six-day organization ‘March Fourth.’
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) met with the frustrated mothers to hear their concerns.
“What I felt in this room was power,” the congresswoman said. “People who are committed not just for the next six days, but for the rest of their lives.”
There are an estimated 20 million semi-automatic weapons owned in the U.S.
A federal assault weapons ban was in place from 1994 to 2004, but it was allowed to expire after 10 years.
“The fact that they were by in large bought legally, that they can be bought legally, is totally unacceptable. These people are saying, ‘No, we’re not going to take it anymore,'” Schakowsky said.
But the National Rifle Association – which donates heavily to Republican members of Congress – opposes any ban. In a statement, the gun-rights group said:
“The 1994 federal ‘assault weapons’ ban shows us why a similar ban wouldn’t work today. Simply put, it had no impact in curbing violent crime.”
During the decade of the federal assault weapons ban, the nation experienced a 70% reduction in mass shootings but a negligible reduction in overall gun homicides because mass shootings account for a small percentage of all gun violence.
“These are battlefield weapons. These are not discreet weapons. These are weapons that produce mass casualties,” said Jennifer Banek, the Lake County coroner who handled the mass shooting investigation.
Banek is also a captain in the U.S. Army reserves and is a trained battlefield medic who has seen the catastrophic damage that semi-automatic weapons cause to the human body.
“One victim in particular, yes, the damage was really horrible. Another victim had a significant hole in their torso,” she said. “So, all of these things make it difficult – even upon autopsy – to discern exactly what was damaged because things are just shredded.”
For Domont and Lieberman, it’s been a week of incalculable sadness, but the trip to Washington also gave the week a profound purpose.
“It ends here. It ends here,” says Domont. “And it ends with these strong moms and parents,” Lieberman added.
“We will not let this continue.”