Joe Biden pledges 'common sense' gun control on anniversary of Sandy Hook massacre

President-elect recalls ‘saddest day’ at White House in promise to ‘end this scourge on our society’

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 14 December 2020 13:27 EST

Related video: Barack Obama: Sandy Hook shootings left me appalled at Congress

President-elect Joe Biden has renewed his calls for stronger gun control measures in the US as he marked the eighth anniversary of the killing of 20 children and six teachers and school staff during the Sandy Hook massacre.

In a message to the parents and families of the victims, who were gunned down at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on 12 December 2012, the president-elect said “in this collective pain, you’ve helped usher in a collective and growing purpose.”

“You’ve helped us forge a consensus that gun violence is a national health crisis and we need to address its total cost to fully heal families, communities, and our nation,” he said in a prepared statement on Monday.

“Eight years later, there have been plenty of thoughts and prayers, but we know that is not enough,” he said. “Together with you and millions of our fellow Americans of every background all across our nation, we will fight to end this scourge on our society and enact common sense reforms that are supported by a majority of Americans and that will save countless lives.”

Dozens of mass shootings have followed in the wake of Sandy Hook – 49 people were killed and 53 others were injured at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016, and 60 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured during a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. A gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

But recent efforts to curb gun violence through stronger gun control measures have faced significant roadblocks or were shelved by a polarised body in Washington. Donald Trump’s administration – for which the National Rifle Association has spent millions of dollars to support – has loosened gun sale regulations and reversed a rule under former president Barack Obama that restricted gun sales made by people identified by the Social Security Administration to be mentally unable to handle their finances.

Mr Biden’s platform includes a proposed ban of AR-style rifles and high-capacity magazines as well as implementing universal background checks, closing “loopholes" allowing gun sales to at-risk individuals, and hold gun manufacturers accountable for their products – all of which are expected to face uphill battles from a GOP-dominated Congress and legal challenges from a ruthless gun lobby.

He also has been pressured by gun control advocates such as Everytown for Gun Safety and the Human Rights Campaign to issue a series of executive orders related to gun control, including tracking so-called “ghost guns” manufactured by owners at home, and mandating gun dealers notify the FBI when they make a sale, among others.

In his statement on Monday, the president-elect addressed “the grandparents, parents, siblings, children, spouses, and fellow broken and healing hearts of Sandy Hook.”

He said: “No matter how long it’s been, every time you talk about it, you relive it as though you just heard the news. Eight years later, I know the pain never fully heals.”

Mr Biden called news of the killings the “saddest day we had in the White House.”

“Since this December day eight years ago, your nightmare has been felt by thousands of other families in our country who have lost a piece of their soul in other schools, a shopping mall, a movie theatre, a club, a house of worship, in their neighborhoods, and in their homes,” he said. “Some of these tragedies make national headlines, so many more do not. Every year, more than 30,000 people die from gun violence across America – a statistic we would associate with war in a far-off place. Countless more are left with a lifetime of injuries and trauma.”

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