Biden calls for gun safety advocates to keep up the fight as he celebrates bipartisan compromise legislation

‘Success begets success ... we finally moved that mountain of opposition, obstruction, and indifference that stood in the way and stopped every effort of gun safety for 30 years in this nation. Now's the time to galvanize this movement’

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Monday 11 July 2022 17:35 BST
‘Now’s the time to galvanise this movement’: Biden speaks to gun safety advocates
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President Joe Biden on Monday hailed the bipartisan gun safety legislation he signed into law last month as an important step that will save lives, while urging the advocates and activists who’ve pressed for more comprehensive gun laws to keep up the fight.

Mr Biden put his signature to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first gun-related legislation to clear both the House and Senate in more than three decades — on 25 June, just one month after a gunman wielding an AR-15 style rifle killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and six weeks after a white supremacist murdered 10 others in a Buffalo, New York supermarket.

The legislation, which was the product of negotiations led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, creates a review process which requires law enforcement to check juvenile records before 18 to 21-year-olds are permitted to purchase long guns.

It also closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by adding convictions for domestic violence in dating relationships to the list of offenses that will result in a person being denied the right to purchase a firearm, and establishes a $750m fund to enable states to administer so-called “red flag” laws which can allow a court to step in to prevent violence by taking firearms out of the hands of people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Mr Biden has long been a supporter of stricter gun laws and frequently touts his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill which included a 10-year ban on many types of military-style weapons as proof of his anti-gun bona fides. He has often called for that ban, which Republicans in Congress and then-president George W Bush allowed to expire in 2004, to be renewed and updated.

The law he signed last month does not include an assault weapons ban, nor does it prohibit the types of high-capacity magazines that have become common tools of mass shooters. But the president nonetheless said the Safer Communities Act would prevent more needless deaths, and praised Mr Cornyn, Mr Murphy, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis for their support of the bill.

“Hope it doesn’t get you in trouble mentioning your names,” he quipped.

Turning to the gun safety advocates in the audience, Mr Biden said “lives will be saved today and tomorrow” because of “your work, your advocacy” and “your courage”.

“What we’re doing today is real, it’s vivid, it’s relevant,” he said. “The action we take today is a step designed to make our nation the kind of nation we should be. It’s about the most fundamental of things — the lives of our children, of our loved ones”.

“It’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence,” he added.

Manuel Oliver, the father of one of the victims of the 2017 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, interjected at that point, shouting at Mr Biden that the legislation being celebrated by the White House did not go far enough.

Mr Biden told the crowd to let him speak rather than shouting him down, and as Mr Oliver was led out by security he acknowledged that “far more has to be done” but said the legislation represented “real progress” that would “save lives”.

He added that gun safety advocates should seize on the limited progress the bill represents to keep pushing for more action, including a ban on military-style rifles such as the AR-15.

"Success begets success ... we finally moved that mountain of opposition, obstruction, and indifference that stood in the way and stopped every effort of gun safety for 30 years in this nation. Now's the time to galvanize this movement,” he said. “Because that's our duty to the people of this nation”.

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