President Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. “should have societal guilt” for the slow pace it’s taken to restrict access to firearms and the continued curse of deadly school shootings across the U.S.
In a statement on Wednesday, Biden marked the 10th anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 young children and six adults were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
“Our nation watched as the unthinkable happened. Twenty young children with their whole lives ahead of them. Six educators who gave their lives protecting their students. And countless survivors who still carry the wounds of that day,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.
Biden used the anniversary to renew his call for a ban on assault-style weapons like the one used in the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as high-capacity magazines.
“We should have societal guilt for taking too long to deal with this problem,” Biden continued. “We have a moral obligation to pass and enforce laws that can prevent these things from happening again. We owe it to the courageous, young survivors and to the families who lost part of their soul 10 years ago to turn their pain into purpose.”
Biden was vice president at the time of the shooting and was tapped by then-President Obama to lead an ill-fated effort to tighten gun laws.
It was not until after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that Congress this past June passed the most substantial gun reforms in decades, targeting so-called “ghost guns” that don’t have serial numbers. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) provides funding for states to create programs that could keep weapons away from people who are a danger to themselves or others, often called red flag laws.
It would also enhance background checks for gun buyers under 21, add penalties for some gun criminals and provide funding for a variety of health and mental health-related programs. It also addresses closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which is a gap in federal law that allows spousal domestic abusers to have gun rights taken away but not unmarried ones.
Biden’s continued calls for more aggressive action, including banning assault-style weapons, have faced stiff opposition in Congress.
“Enough is enough,” Biden said. “Our obligation is clear. We must eliminate these weapons that have no purpose other than to kill people in large numbers. It is within our power to do this – for the sake of not only the lives of the innocents lost, but for the survivors who still hope.”
The president added that he and his wife first lady Jill Biden are praying for the victims and their families on the momentous anniversary.
There were no official remembrances Wednesday in Newtown, in keeping with the town’s tradition of quiet reflection. Several churches planned memorial services.
On Wednesday, there was a groundbreaking in town for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, named after a 6-year-old animal lover who died in the shooting.
“Catherine’s legacy lives on at the sanctuary, a place where all creatures know safety and kindness,” Catherine’s mother, Jenny Hubbard, said in a statement.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said in a video message posted on social media, “Newtown, you’re always in our hearts.”
The state passed new gun control laws after the massacre, including bans on certain semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.
“What would be even more tragic — if we didn’t learn and do everything we can to make sure a tragedy like this is less likely to ever happen again,” Lamont said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.