Biden renews calls for gun control on fourth anniversary of Parkland, Florida school shooting massacre


Joe Biden renewed his call for gun control on the fourth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead and 17 injured on 14 February 2018.

The president said in a statement on Monday that the 19-year-old gunman “stole the lives of 14 students and three educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School”.

“It was the deadliest high school shooting in a nation with far too many of them, and it left another community — and our country — shattered by grief,” he added.

“As we remember those lost in Parkland, we also stand with Americans in every corner of our country who have lost loved ones to gun violence or had their lives forever altered by a shooting, in tragedies that made headlines and in ones that did not,” the president said.

Noting the gun-control activism from some of the survivors of the shooting, Mr Biden said that “out of the heartbreak of Parkland a new generation of Americans all across the country marched for our lives and towards a better, safer America for us all”.

“Together, this extraordinary movement is making sure that the voices of victims and survivors and responsible gun owners are louder than the voices of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association,” he said, adding that his administration “stands with those working to end this epidemic of gun violence”.

“I have put forward a comprehensive plan to reduce gun crime that includes curbing the proliferation of ‘ghost’ guns, cracking down on gun dealers who willfully violate the law, issuing model extreme risk protection order legislation for states, and promoting safe firearm storage, among other efforts,” Mr Biden said.

“The Department of Justice is also helping more cities adopt smart law enforcement models like the one I recently saw in New York City, in which federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to share intelligence and remove shooters from our streets,” he added.

Mr Biden noted that he has “asked Congress to pass a budget that provides an additional half-billion dollars for proven strategies we know reduce violent crime” such as “accountable community policing and community violence interventions”.

The president said he has also asked for more funding for “the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US Marshals”.

He said, “Congress must do much more — beginning with requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers”.

“We can never bring back those we’ve lost. But we can come together to fulfil the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe. For Parkland, for all those we’ve lost, and for all those left behind, it is time to uphold that solemn obligation,” Mr Biden added.

Parkland shooting survivor and co-founder of gun violence prevention group March For Our Lives, David Hogg, appeared on CNN on Monday, saying that the president “has been a friend but not a leader”.

“He’s made small steps but it’s not enough. The president hasn’t been receptive to our demands. We expected this from (former President Donald) Trump, but we’re shocked that it’s coming from Biden,” he said.

A coalition of gun-control activists is asking the administration to “establish a national office of gun violence prevention,” and to “invest in community violence intervention programs”.

They also want Mr Biden to “hold the gun industry accountable” by nominating a new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as “use the presidential bully pulpit” to put focus on the issue and coordinate a plan of action.

Guns Down America founder Igor Volsky told CNN that “we’re not asking for magical things. This is the bare minimum for what a champion of gun violence prevention should be doing, and thus far the president hasn’t”.

Gun violence spiked in 2021, with 10 of the largest US cities seeing record levels of homicides.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating and frankly angering that as we see gun sales skyrocket, as we see gun homicides skyrocket, as we see a dramatic increase in the threat of political violence in this country and mass shootings, that this president has yet to issue a truly comprehensive plan of action,” Mr Volsky added.

“We need to show Biden that over the past four years we have showed up. The movement helped elect the most pro-gun violence prevention president. He’s already acted on this in the past, and he needs to do it as president,” Mr Hogg said.

“The significant increase in gun violence over the last couple of years is simply too hard to ignore and, I do believe the president when he says and when he said that this issue is a priority for him,” Mr Volsky told CNN. “And so if you’re able to organize enough public pressure to get him to understand that there’s actually a political cost to ignoring the promises he made, then you can get the President to move.”

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