Uvalde parents, Highland Park survivors demand assault weapons ban

Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges
About 200 people rally near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to demand stricter gun legislation, such as a federal ban on assault weapons.

WASHINGTON – Kimberly Rubio keeps trying to picture the classroom through her 10-year-old daughter Lexi’s eyes, haunted by the different ways that May day could have ended.

What side of the room did Lexi run toward with her classmates, huddling and fearing for their lives? What if Rubio had taken her daughter home earlier after an award ceremony that day? What if the outside door locked properly? What if police had immediately engaged the suspected gunman?

But the one question that lawmakers should ask themselves every morning and night, she posed, was: “What if the gunman never had access to an assault weapon?”

We are no longer asking for change, Rubio, 33, said to a cheering crowd of about 200 people at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. “We are demanding it.”

Rubio was one of several people who spoke at a rally about the ways gun violence had irreparably harmed their lives and demanded a federal ban on assault weapons.

Those gathered wore bright orange shirts and included community members from Highland Park, Ill., where a gunman killed seven adults and injured dozens more during a Fourth of July parade, and parents of children who were among the 21 people killed in May at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Rubio’s daughter Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, known as Lexi, was one of the children killed.

Many openly grieved at the rally, crying during Rubio’s remarks. A mother at the Highland Park parade recounted how she fled, holding her 1-year-old daughter in her arms as she was grazed by a bullet. Parents shared the terrifying questions they’re hearing from their young children who survived shootings. And speaker after speaker demanded more sweeping federal action to curb the scourge of gun violence.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun-control bill into law, the most significant of its kind in three decades. It expands criminal background checks for some gun buyers, bars a larger group of domestic-violence offenders from purchasing firearms, and funds programs that would allow authorities to seize guns from troubled individuals. However, gun control advocates, and Biden himself, have noted that the legislation does not include everything they hoped for.

During an event on the White House’s South Lawn on Monday billed as “commemorating the historic achievement of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” the father of a 17-year-old boy killed in the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., heckled the president, demanding more action to curb gun violence. Biden renewed calls for a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

On Wednesday, mothers continued to step up to the lectern near the grassy area by 1st and C streets NE and speak about their children, friends and relatives who died of gun violence and the ways survivors grapple with anxiety attacks, fear and guilt. Democratic lawmakers from Illinois, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth; Rep. Brad Schneider, whose district includes Highland Park; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, also spoke at the rally before the crowd marched toward the Capitol.

Nubia Hogan, 45, stood among the crowd and held a poster with a photo of her father, Eduardo Uvaldo.

Uvaldo was at the July Fourth parade with Hogan and their relatives when gunfire rained on the crowd. The parade was a family tradition and Uvaldo’s favorite holiday, she said.

Hogan said she thought about how when gunfire erupted from a nearby rooftop, she froze. Her son, Brian Hogan, 13, yelled to run and the family tried to flee. A bullet hit Brian in the arm and fragments hit Nubia Hogan’s mother, too. Uvaldo was also struck and was rushed to the hospital, where he died two days later.

I get anxiety really bad. I get nightmares, waking up to hearing ‘boom boom’ like the shots, said Nubia Hogan, of Waukegan, Ill. “These types of guns should not be out there for civilians. These are for the military and for police.”

She plans to continue with activism around this issue, joining the many other people who have channeled their grief into advocacy for change. Thousands of people gathered earlier this summer on the National Mall to join the rally staged by March for Our Lives, the organization founded by student survivors of the mass shooting in Parkland, where a gunman killed 17 people.

Still, more than 115,000 students have been exposed to gun violence on K-12 campuses during regular hours since the Parkland massacre, according to a Washington Post database.

Brett Cross, 39, stood toward the back of the crowd and said he thought about his nephew, 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, and how the “system” didn’t protect his family and so many others. The day of the shooting in Uvalde, his wife raced over to the school where Cross said police pushed and blocked parents from entering the building to save their children.

In the first classroom the gunman entered, Cross said, was his nephew, “Uzi,” the young boy who was fast, always racing people, and who aspired to make music, be a YouTuber and one day become a police officer to help people.

Those same cops that he looked up to failed him and his classmates, Cross said.

His 10-year-old son and Uzi shared a room together but now, his son doesn’t want to be in there. Cross bought a cot and placed it next to his bed, where the two hold hands before falling asleep.

He said he wanted to go to school that day so that he could have done something, Cross said. “He wants to know why an 18-year-old kid can go buy these weapons, why it took his brother from him.”