Organizers are expecting up to 1,000 people to converge on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in support of stricter gun laws in the wake of the July Fourth mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.
The “March Fourth” rally is part of a broader call for action in the wake of recent mass killings, including most recently the attack in Highland Park, where a gunman climbed to a rooftop in the wealthy Chicago suburb and opened fire on those watching a Fourth of July parade. Seven people were killed and dozens of others were wounded. Organizers say harsher policies need to be enacted to prevent the steady stream of mass killings. There have been 333 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Families and survivors from Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in May, killing 21 people, were also expected to attend Wednesday’s rally. The group is planning to meet at 11 a.m. ET outside the U.S. Capitol, Carolyn Pryor, one of the organizers, told USA TODAY.
Organizers raised more than $200,000 for the rally on GoFundMe, which helped cover travel expenses and lodging for survivors and families of victims.
More:Fourth of July parade shooting leaves another community traumatized – and transformed
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On Tuesday, organizers of the rally and survivors of the Highland Park shooting met with legislators about stricter gun control laws, Pryor said. The group spoke with Democratic lawmakers, including Illinois Sens. Duckworth and Dick Durbin, as well as Sen. Chris Murphy. Murphy’s term began as his state was reeling from the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. They also met with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
“We have to keep pushing for this to happen, because as a group, we know that it doesn’t matter what you do state by state,” Pryor said. “People even say that Illinois has strict gun legislation, but as you’ve seen from what happened on July 4th, that can’t be fully the truth.”
In the aftermath of the Uvalde attack, President Joe Biden signed into law a bipartisan gun control bill requiring more in-depth background checks on gun buyers under the age of 21. The legislation, passed on June 25, has been hailed as one of the most far-reaching gun control bills in three decades. Highland Park survivors were also in attendance at a Monday event celebrating the legislation’s passing.
But organizers of Wednesday’s rally say while the legislation was a step forward, it is not enough. They are calling for added stipulations on background checks and a ban on assault weapons. The suspect in the Highland Park attack legally obtained an arsenal of weapons before the attack even though there were warning signs about his mental state, exposing cracks in the system and the limits of state laws.
More:Red flags and firearms checks: How the Highland Park suspect slipped through the cracks
More on Highland Park shooting:Police say suspect bought guns legally, disguised himself to escape parade. But motive remains a mystery.
Members of the Highland Park community mobilized after the shooting, Pryor said. She added Highland Park organizers have connected with groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety, two leading gun control organizations.
Lara Chaimson, 39, planned to travel to Washington with a group of other Highland Park survivors for the event. info from Grace. We couldn’t confirm whether Lara made the trip.
“These moms are ready to mobilize,” Chaimson said. “I think we can show people that may disagree that there is reason to take away these assault rifles.”
Chaimson was at the Fourth of July parade with her husband and two young daughters, a block away from where the shooting happened.
“This was a kid. Why was he having access to a weapon of war?” Chaimson said. “What can we do to make steps to make it harder — better yet, impossible — for these assault rifles to be accessible?”
In June, thousands of gun advocates marched in Washington, New York, Chicago and various cities across the country for the March for Our Lives demonstration to fight for stricter gun control laws.
At the time, the nation was reeling from the deadly mass shootings in Uvalde and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Both happened in May.
‘Protect kids, not guns!’: March for Our Lives rallies draw thousands in DC, Florida, Nevada, across US
Chaimson said she’s concerned Americans will quickly move on, distracted by their own lives and the likelihood of another tragedy that will take over the news cycle.
“If I’m being honest, that’s happened to me most of the time when I read stories like this. But if we look at the big picture here, this is something that’s snowballing. It’s something that’s happening frequently,” she said. “It seemed impossible that it would hit home. But it did.”
Natalie Lorentz, 34, was at the parade in Highland Park with her husband, mother and three children. The couple who was sitting to their right was fatally shot, leaving their 2-year-old son orphaned.
“These people inches away from us didn’t make it,” Lorentz said. “I was shaking uncontrollably. My boys were hysterically crying.”
Like Chaimson, Lorentz said she’s trying to channel her trauma, grief and anger into making change.
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Lorentz said the group’s two-day trip to Washington is only the beginning of their advocacy campaign.
“You’re not gonna get rid of us,” she said. “We’re not gonna be quiet.”
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