Sen. Bernie Sanders said late Monday that Congress must take far more ambitious legislative action to combat the scourge of gun violence in the United States in the wake of the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
“Today’s terrible shooting in Highland Park is the latest reminder of our nation’s deadly gun violence epidemic,” Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter. “Grocery stores. Schools. Churches. Fourth of July parades. Places everyone should feel safe. Congress must do more NOW to protect our people.”
The shooting, which left at least six people dead and dozens more wounded, came just over a week after President Joe Biden signed into law a compromise bill that does not contain an assault-weapons ban, universal background checks, and other popular measures that advocates and experts say are needed to meaningfully reduce gun violence.
Passage of the bipartisan legislation was spurred by the horrific massacres in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas in May—among the hundreds of mass shootings that have taken place across the U.S. this year. While some Democratic lawmakers pushed for more aggressive action, the National Rifle Association and the Republican lawmakers it bankrolls objected, as they’ve done for the past decade following mass shooting after mass shooting.
Right-wing Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have thus far refused to support calls to eliminate or reform the 60-vote filibuster, meaning the Democratic majority needs GOP support to get most legislation through the upper chamber.
“The Bipartisan Gun Law was a first step,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Monday, “but Congress must do more to stop this deadly epidemic and save lives.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) echoed that message, writing on Twitter that it is “our patriotic duty to do more in Congress to keep Americans safe and get guns off our streets.”
“Living in fear of mass shootings is not independence,” Bass wrote. “Living in fear of mass shootings is not freedom.”
Robert Crimo, 22, has been taken into custody as a “person of interest” in the Chicago suburb shooting. Authorities said the gunman, perched on a rooftop near the parade route, used a high-powered rifle to open fire on the crowd gathered in Highland Park to celebrate the Fourth of July.
“Unfortunately, it is the natural consequence of allowing the proliferation and unregulated use of semi-automatic weapons which can be used to shoot indiscriminately into crowds and kill and maim dozens, as happened today,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said in a statement Monday. “This scene has repeated itself over and over again because of the unfettered access to weapons of war.”
“What was supposed to be a celebration of our freedom and unity today turned into yet another bloody massacre,” he added. “This reminds us that until we have the sensible, nationwide regulation of firearms, nowhere and nobody is truly safe.”
While Illinois has some of the most stringent gun laws in the U.S.—and Highland Park banned assault weapons in 2013, overcoming opposition from the Illinois Rifle Association—neighboring states have far more lax regulations in place.
As Everytown for Gun Safety noted in a report published earlier this year, “Illinois is surrounded by states with much weaker laws, and an outsized share of likely trafficked guns recovered in Illinois are originally purchased out-of-state—especially in Indiana, just across the border from Chicago.”
Michael Daly, special correspondent for The Daily Beast, wrote in a column Monday that Highland Park’s assault-rifle ban “offered little protection as long as so many other jurisdictions make assault weapons easy to acquire.”
“Salvador Ramos of Uvalde, Texas, legally acquired two assault rifles—both advertised as ‘modern sporting rifles’—the day after his 18th birthday, and another two days later. He proceeded to murder 19 students and two teachers at a local elementary school,” Daly noted. “In the aftermath, there were calls for an assault weapons ban, but the U.S. Senate could come up with nothing more than an enhanced background check for gun buyers between 18 and 21. A kid too young to drink can still buy all the ‘modern sporting weapons’ he wants.”