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Highland Park mayor tries to comfort her community after a gunman killed 6 people

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Nancy Rotering is the mayor of Highland Park, Ill., and she joins us now. Mayor, thank you for being with us. And I just want to start by saying I'm so sorry for what's happened to your community.

NANCY ROTERING: Thank you so much.

FADEL: How is your city doing?

ROTERING: We are in shock, and we are in mourning. This is a hometown where several generations come together regularly to celebrate. And on a day that was supposed to be filled with joy, we are still reeling from the carnage.

FADEL: Have investigators told you any more about how the shooter got on to that roof and how he eluded them for so many hours?

ROTERING: He climbed up a ladder that was accessible on the exterior of the building. And in terms of how he eluded them for several hours, I think he was driving all over the place - is my understanding. So I think they were able to get to him at some point with the unbelievable collaboration of several agencies, municipal police departments, the FBI, ATF, the Illinois State Police. It was an unbelievable partnership across all these agencies that brought him in.

FADEL: Is the person in custody the suspected shooter or still a person of interest?

ROTERING: He is the suspected shooter. And I believe charges will be levied later today.

FADEL: And, you know, you talked about how this was supposed to be a day of celebration. And celebrations like these days are secured. There's lots of security, police. And I understand that was the situation in your city yesterday, and yet this still happened. What does that say about police presence, more security, the idea of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns?

ROTERING: There's no way a good guy with a gun could have stopped the firepower of this weapon that was used by the shooter. He was on a rooftop. Anybody who had a concealed carry would have had no impact on him whatsoever. It's one of those things where I feel like we need to have a conversation as a nation about why we continue to allow these weapons of war to be on our streets. This was a gun that was obtained legally. We know that in so many of these mass shootings that are now becoming weekly events that the guns are being obtained legally. That should tell all of us that the laws aren't doing their job if people can't go out to enjoy a Fourth of July parade with their grandparents without fear. We don't need to become a nation that is so militarized that we can't enjoy the freedoms that people fought for 246 years ago.

FADEL: You know, as mayor, you pushed for and helped pass one of the nation's only local bans on assault weapons. And that was in 2013. And you said the shooter got this high-powered rifle legally. So what needs to be done nationally?

ROTERING: Nationally, we need a collaboration across our states, across our municipalities. We've seen other laws come into play that at first weren't popular, that were, you know, challenged and derived from municipalities taking a stance of passing policies that reflect their own values. That's what we did in 2013. I've been contacted by several cities across the country who are interested in our assault weapons and large-capacity magazine ban. It's one of those things where you can take a step, but there needs to be a joint effort by this nation to recognize, obviously, people are going to travel. People are going to flout the laws. This obviously was in breach of our own law.

But let's talk about the fact that these shootings are such a regular occurrence that something else needs to be done. We did what we could. We did what we could within the confines of current, existing law. We need our nation's leaders to take necessary steps to prevent further carnage in people's hometowns.

FADEL: Just to clarify, you said it was a breach of your local law, but he did acquire the weapon legally?

ROTERING: Correct. So he's not a resident of Highland Park, and he somehow was able to obtain this gun. The fact that he was in our town with it was the breach of our ordinance. But we know that throughout Illinois and Wisconsin and Indiana, neighboring states and so forth, there are far different laws. And he was able to obtain it in that manner.

FADEL: You mentioned how unfortunately common events like this are. And many mayors around the country get training in case there is a mass casualty event like the one that your city just went through. Did you train for this, and did it make you feel prepared when it actually happened?

ROTERING: I don't think anybody can train for this. I am a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and attended several sessions on what to do when a mass shooting comes to your town. Let's just pause for a moment and think about the fact that the U.S. Conference of Mayors even needs to have a seminar on what to do when a mass shooting comes to your town. So you can do all the reading. You can do all the theorizing. When it comes to your own front yard, there is nothing to prepare you. There's nothing to prepare anybody, no matter how much training, to help a community now as we start on our first day of healing from what should have never happened.

FADEL: The mayor of Highland Park, Ill., Nancy Rotering, thank you so much for taking the time this morning. And I'm so sorry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.