Good morning, Finance Chair Chaplin, and members of the DuPage County Board Finance Committee. Thank you for inviting me to discuss what happened in Highland Park on the Fourth of July and how we can work together to stop gun violence in our communities.
My name is Nancy Rotering. I am the Mayor of Highland Park. While my town is in Lake County, we know that a single city or county cannot protect its residents from mass shootings because none of us are islands within the state. But if we can make it that much harder for someone intent on committing a community killing spree to obtain a weapon with the impact and speed of the one used in my community, we have taken a step in the right direction.
The Highland Park Fourth of July Parade is a beloved tradition. Like so many American cities and towns, we truly celebrate our patriotism and hometown pride. While we were thrilled to host this event once again, especially after missing our time together due to the pandemic, our joy was shattered by one young man shooting 83 rounds in under one minute from a legally obtained weapon designed to devastate as many human bodies as quickly as possible.
For the last four months, we have individually and collectively experienced unbelievable grief. We read about mass shootings, but until it arrives in your front yard, the magnitude of devastation that we know from the US Department of Justice will last for years, if not decades, is truly incomprehensible.
It still doesn’t feel real, but we remember and honor the seven individuals who were taken too soon, and we keep the more than four dozen injured, so many still trying to physically recover from these devastating and complex wounds, and their families in our thoughts.
Highland Park’s story includes eight-year-old Cooper Roberts, who went to a Fourth of July parade with his family and as a result missed the beginning of the third grade because he was still hospitalized, learning about living forever more in a wheelchair with PTSD. He said on his first day back? “If I hadn’t been shot, if I hadn’t been paralyzed, if I hadn’t been in a wheelchair, it would have been a perfect first day of school.” Think about that - eight years old. It includes two-year old Aiden McCarthy still asking for his mom and dad, who died shielding their only child during a family outing to celebrate freedom and independence. Our story includes the Toledo family, all seventeen of them, who directly experienced what happened to their grandfather’s head when he was hit by high velocity gunshot.
As we well know, this uniquely American problem has resulted in a long list of communities that have shared this trauma. With frustrating regularity, as recently as yesterday, shooters using assault weapons and large-capacity magazines wreak terror, agony and carnage throughout our nation in major cities, suburban towns, and even rural areas. Shooters strike churches, grocery stores, movie theaters, concerts, schools and main streets. We know from conversations with the US Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, the impacts of this one minute, will last for years, decades, lifetimes.
There is no roadmap to tell any of us what to do when something of this magnitude hits home, but it is the decisions that we make followed by the actions we take that illustrate who we are and what we can do. If there is even one step that we can take to save another life and keep another town from enduring this kind of pain, we have an obligation to try. We know that no community is immune to gun violence. Among American mayors, and I know there are some former mayors in this room, there is the common refrain of “not if, but when” a mass shooting will come to our communities. I cannot sufficiently convey to you the horrible, sick feeling of getting the call that a mass shooting has happened in your community.
And what is equally concerning, our children talk about “not if, but when.” Our children knew exactly what to do on the Fourth of July because they have been training for an active shooter their entire lives. What does this say about us as a society?
This shooting was a reminder that action against the gun violence epidemic is needed now; frankly, it’s overdue. I join you today because I promised my community as their mayor, as their neighbor, as a parent, as a child of Highland Park, as a human being - I will not stop trying and I ask you to join me today, right here, right now.