By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday said Americans need to understand that gun violence “can happen anywhere,” during a visit to the Illinois city where a gunman killed at least seven people in a mass shooting at a July Fourth parade.
“There’s a lot of healing that’s going to have to happen that is both physical and emotional. There’s no question that this experience is something that is going to linger in terms of the trauma,” Harris told members of the media gathered at the scene of the shooting in Highland Park. “I’d like to urge all the families and all the individuals to do seek the support you so rightly deserve.”
Addressing gun safety in the United States, the vice president continued: “We’ve got to be smarter as a country in terms of who has access to what — and in particular assault weapons. We have to take this stuff seriously. As seriously as you are because you have been forced to take it seriously. The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy to understand that this can happen anywhere, in any peace loving community.”
Harris was accompanied by Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, US Rep. Brad Schneider and state Sen. Julie Morrison during the visit.
Rotering told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” that her team “shared with (Harris) the profound grief that our community is experiencing right now.”
“And she gave a very important message to our first responders, that was they needed to take care of themselves,” the mayor said. “We know that the scene was unbelievably gruesome — the aftermath. And it was important for them to hear that message, that even though they’re tough, they need to be able to get the assistance that they need.”
In a call Tuesday morning, Rotering had invited the vice president to join her in Highland Park following Harris’ speech to the National Education Association in Chicago.
In those remarks, just miles from Highland Park, the vice president pointedly told Congress to “have the courage” to act on an assault weapons ban and to “stop protecting” gun manufacturers.
“Yesterday, it should have been a day to come together with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s independence and instead, that community suffered a violent tragedy,” Harris said during the speech, adding that “we need to stop this violence.”
“You know, I’ve said it before. Enough is enough,” she said forcefully. “I mean, here we are, our nation is still mourning the loss of those 19 babies and their two teachers in Uvalde.”
President Joe Biden late last month signed into law the first major federal gun safety legislation passed in decades, marking a significant bipartisan breakthrough on one of the most contentious policy issues in Washington. The legislation came together in the aftermath of recent mass shootings at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school and a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
“God willing, it’s going to save a lot of lives,” Biden said at the White House as he finished signing the bill.
The suspect in Monday’s mass shooting has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart announced during a news conference Tuesday evening.
If convicted, Robert E. Crimo III, 21, could face a mandatory life sentence, and more charges are expected to come, including attempted murder, aggravated discharge and aggravated battery, Rinehart said.
Police said Crimo used a “high-powered rifle” in the attack and may have planned the shooting “for several weeks.” He has been in police custody since being apprehended Monday evening.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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CNN’s Mary Kay Mallonee and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.