Vice President Kamala Harris made a previously unscheduled trip on Tuesday night to Highland Park, Illinois — the site of a deadly mass shooting during a Fourth of July parade the previous day.
There, she expressed her grief at what the community had just endured and reiterated the federal government’s support, not long after she again urged for more widespread government action to address gun violence.
Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff spent about 30 minutes in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park after she spoke earlier Tuesday at the National Education Association’s annual meeting.
Addressing teachers in Chicago, she elicited loud cheers when she said: “We need to end this horror. We need to stop this violence. And we must protect our communities from the terror of gun violence. You know I’ve said it before, enough is enough.”
Reflecting on the “19 babies and their two teachers” killed in an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Harris told the NEA educators that the shooting was “the most recent reminder” of “the risks that our children and our educators face every day.”
“Teachers should not have to practice barricading a classroom,” she said. “Teachers should not have to know how to treat a gunshot wound. And teachers should not be told that lives would have been saved if only you had a gun.”
She called on federal lawmakers to ban assault-style rifles, saying, “Congress needs to have the courage to act and renew the assault weapons ban.”
“An assault weapon is designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly,” Harris said. “There is no reason that we have weapons of war on the streets of America.”
Nonetheless, there is little prospect of legislators taking up such restrictions: Congress just passed a modest, bipartisan package intended to reduce gun violence, and Republicans say more laws violate the Second Amendment.
In Highland Park later Tuesday, Harris met with local politicians and law enforcement near the scene of the shooting that killed seven and injured dozens more. (A suspect has since been taken into custody and charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday.)
The vice president embraced Mayor Nancy Rotering and told her, “I’m sorry,” upon arriving in Highland Park. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Illinois, and state Sen. Julie Morrison joined Harris. Her office said she was invited to Highland Park on Tuesday during a morning call with Rotering.
Harris took some time to shake hands and meet with individual law enforcement members, including Highland Park police officers.
She visited the town near the scene of Monday’s mass shooting. According to the press pool, bikes, strollers, toys and lawn chairs were still visible in the area — detritus from those who fled the attack.
In brief remarks, Harris offered the country’s condolences and resources on behalf of the administration, saying, “We’ll continue to put all the resources that the mayor and the chief and others need in terms of the federal assistance, so the FBI, the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] are here.”
“From President Joe Biden and our country, we are so sorry for what you have all experienced … This should never have happened. We talked about it being ‘senseless.’ It is. It is absolutely senseless,” Harris said. “I want for you that you hold each other tight as a community, that you know that you have a whole nation who cares deeply about you and stands with you.”
As the vice president spoke, about 100 local residents had gathered nearby, according to the press pool.
“This is an incredibly tight community. I know that,” she said, “and this person will be brought to justice. But it’s not going to undo what happened.”
Harris also said the administration’s focus had not strayed from guns. The White House will “deal with what we need to deal with” in terms of who has access to assault weapons.
But her attention was on the local community.
“We’ve got to take this stuff seriously — as seriously as you are, because you have been forced to have to take it seriously,” she said. “The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy, to understand that this can happen anywhere, in any peace-loving community. And we should stand together and speak out about why it’s got to stop.”
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.