WASHINGTON — President Biden Monday welcomed hundreds of survivors and relatives of victims of mass shootings to the White House to promote the newly passed bipartisan gun law, an event that reflects both the president’s desire to push for even more restrictive gun control measures and the political restrictions imposed. stopped him.
A sign of the fraught nature of the debate, Mr. Biden’s comments were interrupted early on by a protester, whose words were inaudible to White House CCTV footage and to reporters who personally covered the event, but who appeared to claim that the President and Congress should act more vigorously on this issue.
“Today there is a lot,” Biden told the crowd. “It’s proof that, despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on gun violence.”
Immediately after, a man rose from his chair and began yelling at Mr. Biden. “Sit down and listen to what I have to say,” Mr. Biden said. The man continued for a while and was then led away by an administration official.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre identified the protester as Manuel Oliver, the father of a high school student, Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting. She said Mr Oliver was part of a group that met with Mr. Biden earlier in the day, ahead of the event, which attracted 2,000 attendees, according to Ms. Jean-Pierre.
“Our hearts go out to Manuel Oliver, who has suffered a deep, deep loss,” said Ms Jean-Pierre. “The president agrees with him. He agrees that we need to do more.”
White House officials later said on Monday that Ms. Jean-Pierre was mistaken and that Mr. Oliver met with Mr. Biden earlier this year — not on Monday.
The event, on the South Lawn, appeared to be an attempt by government officials to portray Biden as a transformational leader on gun violence, though the bill he signed late last month fell far short of meeting his ambitions. the president for a legislative response to mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo and elsewhere.
The audience included survivors and relatives of victims of decades of mass shootings, including those in Uvalde, Buffalo, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., Parkland, Fla., Santa Fe, NM and the recent July Fourth Parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. It also included relatives of victims and survivors of what White House officials called “daily acts of gun violence that don’t make national headlines.”
Vice President Kamala Harris told the crowd the legislation would not have been possible without Mr Biden’s “unshakable determination”.
Ms Harris and Mr Biden tried to strike a difficult balance in their comments. They promised that the newly signed law — which was the result of intense negotiations and compromises with Republicans in the Senate — would save lives, and that it would have helped stop recent shootings had it gone into effect a year ago. But they also said it didn’t go far enough.
The law, which broke a three-decade blockade on the adoption of gun measures in Washington, includes extensive background checks for those under 21 who want to buy guns and allocates millions of dollars for government mental health efforts and implementation of drugs. the so-called red flag laws that allow officials to temporarily confiscate weapons from people deemed dangerous by a judge. It also tightens gun-trafficking laws and closes what’s known as the boyfriend loophole in banning the purchase of firearms through domestic violence.
“It matters,” Mr Biden said. “It’s important. But it’s not enough, we all know that.”
Mr Biden used his comments to renew his call for a new assault weapons ban; a previous ban, which Mr. Biden helped enact in 1994 as a senator, expired after 10 years. Other speakers repeated his words.
“I invite everyone to move forward from this beginning of the change that will enable us to make it to the end of our struggle, a world where the safety of schools is never questioned and weapons of war are not allowed in our communities,” Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician in Uvalde, said when introducing Ms Harris.
But the ranks of the crowd underlined how difficult it would be for Mr Biden to deliver on his promise and take any additional weapons measures. Although about 80 members of Congress attended the event, only two Republicans attended: Texas Senator John Cornyn, who helped lead negotiations on the bipartisan bill, and Representative Tony Gonzales, whose district includes Uvalde. Many other Republicans have criticized the bipartisan bill for going too far in restricting gun owners’ rights.
Mr. Biden on Monday offered no plans to win Republican converts to pass a new gun bill through the Senate, or to persuade tenacious Democratic senators to lift the filibuster and pass such a bill with a simple majority vote. approve. At a time when activists criticized him for not leading more vigorously on guns, abortion, climate change and more, the president concluded his speech with statistics on people, especially children, who are killed by gun violence every year.
“We can’t just watch,” he said. “We can’t let it happen any longer.”