“We’ve finally moved that mountain”
Washington — President Biden on Monday commemorated the passage of the recent bipartisan gun control legislation, declaring elected officials have “finally moved that mountain” to reform the nation’s firearms laws after nearly three decades of inaction due to political gridlock.
“Today is many things: it’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress in dealing with gun violence,” Mr. Biden said during an event at the White House. “Make no mistake about it, this legislation is real progress, but more has to be done. The provision of this new legislation is going to save lives, and it’s proof that in today’s politics, we can come together on a bipartisan basis to get important things done, even on an issue as tough as guns.”
Quoting Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who was key in negotiating the terms of the bipartisan measure with GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Mr. Biden told the scores of attendees the legislation will clear the way for more action to be taken.
“We’ve finally moved that mountain, a mountain of opposition, obstruction and indifference that stood in the way and stopped every effort of gun safety for 30 years in this nation,” he said. “Now is the time to galvanize this movement, because that’s our duty to the people of this nation.”
The president gathered lawmakers, stakeholders and families who lost loved ones to gun violence together at the White House to commemorate the realization of the gun reforms, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
The bill, which passed Congress with significant bipartisan support, enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21, provides billions of dollars for mental health services and gives $750 million to states to incentivize crisis intervention programs. Critically, it closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to ensure convicted domestic abusers can’t purchase a firearm for five years
“Will we match thought and prayers with action? I say yes, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Mr. Biden said.
The president’s remarks were briefly interrupted by an attendee pushing Mr. Biden to do more to curb gun violence. The man, Manuel Oliver, lost his son Joaquin in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and was escorted from the event by White House staff.
While Mr. Biden praised the bipartisan legislation, he said its passage is a “call to action.”
“It will not save every life from the epidemic of gun violence, but if this law had been in place year ago, even this last year, lives would’ve been saved. It matters,” the president said. “But it’s not enough, and we all know that.”
Mr. Biden reiterated the need for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, pass laws requiring the safe storage of firearms and further strengthen background checks, near impossibilities in a 50-50 Senate with the midterm elections months away.
The legislation was Congress’s response to a pair of mass shootings — one at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and the other at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — that left a combined 31 people, including 19 children, dead. Following the massacres, Murphy and Cornyn began negotiations to find consensus around a proposal to curb gun violence, and ultimately reached agreement on a deal that garnered support from enough Democratic and Republican senators to overcome a filibuster.
But despite the historic nature of the bipartisan legislation, gun violence has continued to shock communities, most recently in Highland Park, Illinois, where seven were killed during a Fourth of July parade.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering were among the state and local officials at the White House event, joining members of Mr. Biden’s Cabinet and lawmakers from the House and Senate.