WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday praised a new bipartisan law aimed at reducing gun violence as “real progress” but said “more needs to be done” after just 16 days in effect, that legislation has already been overshadowed by another mass shooting.
The bill, passed after recent weapons outbreaks in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, are tightening requirements for young people to buy guns, banning more domestic abusers from firearms, and helping local authorities temporarily seize guns from people deemed dangerous.
But Monday morning’s “celebration” at the White House came a week after a gunman in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people during an Independence Day parade, a stark reminder of the new law’s limitations in tackling the American phenomenon of mass gun violence. And it comes when Democratic governors have taken on the mantle of offering outrage faced with gun violence.
Biden hosted hundreds of guests on the South Lawn, including a bipartisan group of lawmakers who drafted and supported the legislation, as well as local officials — including Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering — as well as the families of victims of both mass shootings as everyday gun violence.
“Because of your work, your advocacy, your bravery, this will save lives today and tomorrow,” Biden said.
Biden on Saturday invited Americans to share their stories of how they have been affected by gun violence via text message—a new White House communications strategy., tweeting that “I’m hosting a celebration of the passing of the Safer Communities Act.” He shared some of their stories Monday about people traumatized by shootings and children orphaned by gun violence.
The bill is the most impactful gun violence measure passed by Congress since enacting a now-expired assault weapons ban in 1993. Still, gun control proponents — and even White House officials — say it’s premature to declare victory. call.
“There’s just not much to celebrate here,” said Igor Volsky, director of the private group Guns Down America.
“It’s historic, but it’s also the bare minimum of what Congress should be doing,” Volsky said. “And as we were reminded by the July 4 shooting, and so many other gun deaths that have occurred since then, the gun violence crisis is just that much more urgent.”
Volsky’s group, along with other gun violence advocacy groups, was set to hold a news conference outside the White House on Monday, calling on Biden to establish a special office in the White House to address gun violence with a greater sense of urgency. .
Biden has left gun control policy to his Domestic Policy Council, rather than establishing a dedicated office like he rose to addressing climate change or the gender policy council he created to promote access to reproductive health care.
“We have a president who hasn’t really met the moment yet, who has chosen to act as a bystander on this matter,” Volsky said. “For some reason, the government absolutely refuses to have a senior official who can direct this issue through the government.”
The president signed the bipartisan gun law on June 25, calling it “an historic achievement” at the time.
On Monday, Biden said the bill’s passage should be a call to action for further action to reduce gun violence.
“Shall we match thoughts and prayers with action?” Biden asked. “I say yes. And that’s what we’re doing here today.”
White House officials said Biden doesn’t see passing the bill as the finishing line, but rather as a foundation to build on. The Illinois shooting happened nine days after the bill was signed.
“I recently signed into law the first major bipartisan gun reform bill in nearly 30 years, which includes actions that will save lives,” Biden said after the July 4 shooting. “But there is still much more work to be done, and I am not going to give up the fight against the epidemic of gun violence.”
Biden responded Friday to the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by noting how the shooting shocked people in Japan. The country has a remarkably low incidence of gun violence compared to the US, which has already killed thousands this year.
Most of the $13 billion in spending from the new law would be used to bolster mental health programs and schools targeted by gunmen in Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida; and many other gun murders. It was the product of weeks of closed-door negotiations by a bipartisan group of senators who came forward with a compromise.
It does not include much stricter restrictions that Democrats and Biden have long advocated, such as a ban on assault weapons and background checks on all weapons transactions. Biden was expected to repeat his call for tougher measures on Monday, but prospects for further congressional action are slim.