President Joe Biden marked the third anniversary of the Parkland school shooting by pointing to the continuing “epidemic of gun violence” and calling on Congress to pass strict “commonsense gun law reforms,” including a ban on assault weapons. Biden also called for laws requiring background checks for all gun sales, banning high-capacity magazines, and ending immunity for gun manufacturers “who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”
“Today, as we mourn with the Parkland community, we mourn for all who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” Biden said in a statement on the anniversary of the day when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, 2018 and killed 17 people. His administration “will not wait for the next mass shooting” to take action, Biden added. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”
Biden frequently talked about the need to take action to decrease gun violence across the country while he was on the campaign trail. But the White House so far hasn’t spelled out how the president plans to turn that into a reality, particularly considering Democrats would need to get at least 10 Republicans to approve any bills in the Senate. Still, some longtime gun-control activists are feeling optimistic that Washington may actually move on the issue after years of inaction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday Congress would work with the administration to enact two background-check bills approved by the House in the last Congress.
Gun control advocates in particular have been heartened because the White House has started to reach out to them, reports the Wall Street Journal. In addition to legislative measures, activists are pushing the administration to take action that would not require the support of Congress, considering the slim Democratic majority. Among the measures they’re proposing is appointing a senior aide who will specifically have the job of overseeing gun policy as well as pushing for existing rules to be more strictly enforced. Gun-rights groups are raising the alarm, with National Rifle Association spokeswoman Amy Hunter saying Biden “may become the most antigun president in American history.”
Even as some activists have been heartened by the way the White House has reached out to gun control advocates, some has been concern that there has been comparatively little outreach to Black-led gun violence prevention groups, reports Mother Jones. These groups focus on everyday gun violence, an issue that they say requires particular attention now that there has been a sharp rise in shooting deaths in communities of color during the pandemic. “The reality that the Biden administration would convene a meeting on gun violence without any of us there, knowing the unfortunate rise of gun-related shootings and deaths in Black communities in the age of COVID, is troubling,” said Mike McBride, a Black pastor who helps direct the organizing group Faith in Action.