WASHINGTON, D.C. — Survivors and families affected by gun violence, including the recent July Fourth mass shooting in Illinois and the Texas school shooting, on Wednesday called on legislators to enact stricter gun laws ahead of a march to the U.S. Capitol.

“I am unwilling to let what happened to my family, to my babies … be another thought and prayer,” Abby Brosio, who survived the mass shooting last Monday in Highland Park, Illinois, told the crowd. “I hope you’re uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Let’s begin.”

The demonstration, which drew about 200 people, is part of a broader call for action following recent mass killings including the attack in Highland Park, where seven people were killed after a gunman climbed to a rooftop in the wealthy Chicago suburb and opened fire on those watching a Fourth of July parade. Families from Uvalde, Texas — where a gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school in May — spoke to the crowd in Washington as well.

Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter Lexi was killed during the Uvalde shooting, demanded change, starting with getting rid of assault weapons. People in the crowd could be heard crying as Rubio shared the tragedy of losing her daughter in an act she called preventable if assault weapons were banned.

“So if there is one question that should be on the forefront of (law enforcement) minds, what if the gunman never had access to an assault weapon?” Rubio said to the crowd.

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and organizer Kitty Brandtner also addressed the spectators, many of whom were wearing bright orange shirts in honor of gun violence awareness. Brandtner said Highland Park is ready to fight to ensure they are the last community to experience a mass shooting.

“We’re here. We’re having our voices heard, and we’re going to federally ban assault weapons right now,” Brandtner said.

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

‘No silver lining’:Family, elected officials attend funeral services for Highland Park parade shooting victims

On Tuesday, organizers of the rally and survivors of the Highland Park shooting met with legislators about stricter gun control laws, Carolyn Pryor, one of the organizers, told USA TODAY. The group spoke with Democratic lawmakers, including Illinois Sens. Duckworth and Dick Durbin, as well as Sen. Chris Murphy, whose 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.

“These moms are ready to mobilize,” said Lara Chaimson, 39, earlier this week. “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.”

MASS SHOOTING FEARS:‘Every crowd, everywhere’: Fear follows witnesses of mass shootings and radiates across America

 

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