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In impassioned speech, Biden calls for assault weapons ban and stronger background check laws

Published June 16, 2023 at 6:51 AM EDT

In impassioned speech, Biden calls for assault weapons ban and stronger background check laws

Posted June 16, 2023 at 4:09 PM EDT
US Senator Chris Murphy welcome
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
US Senator Chris Murphy welcomes President Joe Biden to the stage during the Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.

In a speech that was fiery at times, President Biden on Friday applauded the courage and determination of shooting survivors and other gun safety advocates while vowing that the fight for stronger gun laws will continue under his administration.

“I still remember the people I met with in Newtown and Orlando and Las Vegas and Pittsburgh and Charleston, Parkland, El Paso, Uvalde, Buffalo, Monterey Park, and so many other places that never make the headlines,” Biden said. “I've never forgotten them, and I never will forget them.”

Biden addressed the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford — an event that marked one year since Biden's signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major gun safety legislation in three decades.

President Biden speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
President Biden speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.

Biden, whose speech lasted just under a half hour, called for a return of the national assault weapons ban, stronger laws requiring background checks for gun purchases, and a repeal of immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.

“If this Congress refuses to act, we need a new Congress,” Biden said, “and we need states to act as well.”

Biden said he believed the gun control movement had momentum on its side.

“We will beat the gun industry,” Biden said. “We will beat the big money that sits behind them and the politicians that refuse to stand up and act. It won’t be easy. I have no illusions how fiercely they’ll fight back, but I also have no illusions about the people in this room. Look at what you’ve already done here in Connecticut and around the country.”

“We can get this done,” Biden said, to loud applause.

President Joe Biden leaves the stage after speaking at the Safer Communities Summit
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
President Joe Biden leaves the stage after speaking at the Safer Communities Summit

Biden arrives at University of Hartford, praising the work of gun control advocates

Posted June 16, 2023 at 3:08 PM EDT

President Joe Biden took the stage at the University of Hartford’s Lincoln Theater just before 3:00 p.m.

He was introduced by young gun safety advocates and school shooting survivors from March For Our Lives, Team ENOUGH, Students Demand Action, and Giffords.

“Thank you for your commitment,” Biden told the crowd of advocates, elected officials and people affected by gun violence.

He listed mass shootings like Sandy Hook, Uvalde, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh – and also highlighted shootings in cities like Hartford that he said happen “every damn day.”

“Some people in this room have turned your pain into purpose,” Biden said, praising the advocacy work by families from Connecticut and elsewhere.

Biden arrives in Connecticut for Safer Communities Summit

Posted June 16, 2023 at 1:58 PM EDT
President Joe Biden heads toward a group of on-lookers after arriving at Bradley International Airport Friday afternoon, June 16, 2023.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
U.S. President Joe Biden heads toward a group of onlookers after arriving at Bradley Airport Friday afternoon, June 16, 2023.

President Joe Biden landed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks Friday afternoon. He's scheduled to speak at the National Safer Communities Summit in Hartford. “Today, I'm headed to Connecticut to discuss the actions we've taken to confront the scourge of gun violence in America – and the work that lies ahead,” Biden tweeted Friday. “We are not finished.”

Lawmakers speak on gun background checks, safe storage and community intervention

Posted June 16, 2023 at 12:50 PM EDT
Gabby Gifford is greeted by US Senator Richard Blumenthal before her address at the Safer Communities Summit
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Gabby Gifford is greeted by US Senator Richard Blumenthal before her address at the Safer Communities Summit

One year after the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, more needs to be done.

That was the message of Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, as well as Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat from Georgia.

In a panel moderated by Everytown for Gun Safety president John Feinblatt, McBath mentioned the importance of continuing to fund community-based intervention organizations. "It is a holistic, organic way to be able to look at gun violence prevention," she said.

Blumenthal highlighted the importance of youth involvement in the “fight” for more federal gun safety legislation.

"They're voting,” he said. “Pretty soon, they're going to be running for office.”

The three panelists, all Democrats, also pushed for increased public advocacy.

"Last year represented a paradigm shift," Murphy said. “This is a moment where, all of a sudden, the change agents have the power."

U.S. Rep Lucy McBath speaks during the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
U.S. Rep Lucy McBath speaks during the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recalls responding to mass shootings

Posted June 16, 2023 at 12:36 PM EDT
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks at the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks at the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona grew emotional while talking about attending multiple funerals for victims of the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers.

He says he met a colleague of a slain teacher outside one of the funerals.

“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘Please do something,’” Cardona said.

Cardona was principal at Hanover Elementary School in Meriden at the time of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

“I remember feeling powerless and outraged,” Cardona said.

Cardona said the Department of Education would do everything in its power to prevent further mass shootings at American schools, but acknowledged much is out of his agency’s control.

“It’s not enough,” Cardona said. “It will not be enough until we get tougher gun laws.”

Cardona derided Republicans pushing to arm teachers.

“You don't trust them to pick out books for kids and now you want to put guns in their hands? Come on, man,” he said, to loud applause.

Protesters decry restrictions on rights, but also express support for some gun control regulations

Posted June 16, 2023 at 11:07 AM EDT
Protestors gather outside the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
Protestors, including Seth Rosenblit, 63, of West Hartford, gather outside the National Safer Communities Summit at University of Hartford, June 16, 2023.

A handful of gun rights activists have gathered in front of the University of Hartford.

As of mid-morning, at least 10 protesters were visible. Several said they were here due to restrictions on rights.

James Stevens, from Seymour, Connecticut, said he feels like an outlier in a heavily Democratic state. His opposition to past vaccine mandates and gun control regulations have strained relations with some of his family members, he said.

Another protestor, Scott Silvia, expressed resentment over not being able to open carry. But Silvia said he was in favor of background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases.

Connecticut Citizens Defense League releases statement ahead of Safer Communities Summit

Posted June 16, 2023 at 10:14 AM EDT

In advance of the National Safer Communities Summit in Hartford on Friday, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL) issued a statement calling Gov. Ned Lamont and President Joe Biden “out of touch.”

“Gun control advocates have now coined themselves as gun safety advocates,” said Holly Sullivan, CCDL president. “Responsible firearm owners lawfully possess and use guns daily. Many are instructors or volunteer at their local sportsmen’s clubs and ranges. These are the individuals who are true gun safety advocates, not those who have little first-hand experience with a firearm.”

Lamont opened the summit with remarks Friday morning. Biden is expected to speak later today.

The event is being held to mark the first anniversary of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhanced the review process for gun buyers under 21 years old among other gun safety provisions.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy signs a copy of his book, "The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy," for Vicki Zacharewicz of Moms Demand Action during the National Safer Communities Summit.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy signs a copy of his book, "The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy," for an attendee of the National Safer Communities Summit.

Hartford Mayor: City 'has seen more than its share of gun violence'

Posted June 16, 2023 at 9:41 AM EDT
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin with Governor Ned Lamont (left) speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin with Governor Ned Lamont (left) speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont are kicking things off Friday morning.

Bronin said it’s an honor to host President Joe Biden. “I serve a city that has seen more than its share of gun violence,” the mayor said.

In brief remarks that were punctuated by applause from attendees at the University of Hartford, Lamont touted recently passed state legislation he signed to strengthen Connecticut’s gun laws. For Connecticut, it was the first major tightening of gun regulations since laws adopted in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

Lamont said he was tired of people framing gun violence as solely a mental health problem.

“Every time you tell me it's not about the guns, it's about the guns,” Lamont said. “It's about the guns. We have more damn guns per person in this country than anywhere else on Earth."

Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledges CT's gun-manufacturing legacy

Posted June 16, 2023 at 9:39 AM EDT
Nelba Márquez-Greene holds a moment of silence at the National Safer Communities Summit in West Hartford, Conn. Her husband Jimmy Greene stands behind her. Their daughter Ana Grace was killed the the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Nelba Márquez-Greene holds a moment of silence at the National Safer Communities Summit in West Hartford, Conn. Her husband Jimmy Greene stands behind her. Their daughter Ana Grace was killed the the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012.

In opening remarks Friday morning, Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged Connecticut's complicated history with guns.

"It's a little ironic that Connecticut, for a couple of centuries, was known as the arsenal of democracy," Lamont, a Democrat, said. "We had Colt firearms and Remington and Winchester. We armed the militias, we armed the armies, that fought for freedoms. But, increasingly, those are the guns leaked out onto the streets."

Lamont said Connecticut, "once the arsenal of Democracy, is now the labratory of change," and cited recent state legislation to tigthen gun laws.

Governor Ned Lamont speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Governor Ned Lamont speaks at the Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford on June 16, 2023.

Biden will mark the anniversary of a gun safety law signed after the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre

Posted June 16, 2023 at 6:50 AM EDT
President Joe Biden waves to the crowd gathered for the Safer Communities Summit.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
President Joe Biden waves to the crowd gathered for the Safer Communities Summit.

President Joe Biden plans to travel to Connecticut later this afternoon to headline an event celebrating gun safety legislation at both the state and local levels, according to the White House.

Biden will mark the first anniversary of a gun safety law signed after the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre. The Democratic president wants to highlight the bipartisan legislative win and how the sweeping law has been implemented so far. Biden also will use the moment Friday to push for more robust action, including universal background checks and the banning of so-called “assault weapons.”

“Connecticut has been a leader on gun safety legislation in the decade following the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“So he’s going to highlight the progress at the state level and call for state legislators across the country and Congress to take additional action,” Jean-Pierre said. "That’s what you’re going to hear from the president.”

The National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford will take place one year to the month since Biden’s signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most major gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.

The gathering is being led by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and major gun safety groups hoping to build on recent progress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.