On the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, President Joe Biden said that Americans should have “societal guilt” for not appropriately addressing gun violence and called for an assault weapons ban.
Biden declared Dec. 14, 2022, a day of remembrance and opened a statement by saying, “Ten years ago today at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation watched as the unthinkable happened.
“Twenty young children with their whole lives ahead of them. Six educators who gave their lives protecting their students. And countless survivors who still carry the wounds of that day.
“We should have societal guilt for taking too long to deal with this problem,” Biden said. “We have a moral obligation to pass and enforce laws that can prevent these things from happening again.”
Last summer—a month after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas—Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
The legislation features enhanced background checks for people under 21 and incentivizes states to adopt “red flag” laws, which are intended to remove guns from people who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others.
The measure also prohibits romantic partners who are convicted of domestic violence and are not married to their victim from obtaining firearms.
“We’ve reined in so-called ghost guns which have no serial numbers and are harder to trace,” Biden said about the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. “We’ve cracked down on gun trafficking and increased resources for violence prevention.”
Broader restrictions like assault weapon bans, increasing the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, requiring safe storage rules at home, and mandating background checks on internet sales and at gun shows are not included in the legislation.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed and signed into law after weeks of negotiations led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“This will become the most significant piece of anti-gun-violence legislation Congress has passed in three decades,” Murphy said before the vote last June.
“This bill also has the chance to prove to the weary American public that democracy is not so broken, that it is able to rise to the moment.”
Biden has an increased sense of urgency to get an assault weapons ban passed before Republicans take over in the U.S. House of Representatives in January. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the first and only U.S. assault-weapons ban. That law expired in 2004.
Biden said that he is “determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like those used at Sandy Hook and countless other mass shootings in America”
“Enough is enough. Our obligation is clear. We must eliminate these weapons that have no purpose other than to kill people in large numbers,” Biden said.
“It is within our power to do this—for the sake of not only the lives of the innocents lost, but for the survivors who still hope.”
Murphy reflected on the Sandy Hook shooting by saying that Newtown was a wonderful place” before the tragedy but it has changed.
“There’s still a lot of pain and a lot of hurt. There’s a lot of trauma in Newtown. There’s also been a lot of grace,” Murphy said.
“So many of these families have put their energies into starting up nonprofits and organizations to try to help those in need and that’s made a big difference.”
After the Sandy Hook shooting. Connecticut passed bi-partisan legislation to bolster the state’s assault weapons ban and require background checks for all firearm purchases.
“Connecticut has among the lowest gun homicide rates in the nation. And that is due in part to our gun laws,” Murphy said. “Connecticut right now is in the process of improving its red flag laws. It just passed an update and we now need to put that into action.”
Murphy said that a key element of the bipartisan Safer Communities Act is that it provides $15 billion in funding for mental health school and community safety.
“People don’t really know what those numbers mean in Washington speak—that’s a lot of money,” Murphy said. “And it’s going to allow us to open up dozens of new mental health clinics all across the country.
“It’s going to mean lots of new school counselors and social workers to help troubled kids,” he added. “And it’s going to put a lot of money into anti-gun violence initiatives in our cities.”