Statement from Vice President Joe Biden Marking Seven Years Since the Sandy Hook Shooting
Seven years ago this morning, 26 families in Newtown, Connecticut, said goodbye to their loved ones for the last time. Twenty little first graders, excited to sing holiday songs and make gingerbread houses, were shot dead in their classrooms, along with six educators who tried to protect them. Families were shattered on the spot, and the nation’s heart was broken. It was a tragedy that will forever be embedded in who we are as a nation, even as we still struggle to fathom the depth of such a loss.
Many of us resolved then that the moment would be a watershed for America — that the senseless loss of those beautiful children, in a place that was supposed to be their second sanctuary, would finally pierce the gridlock to defeat the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers, and to once-and-for-all transform our gun laws so that this could never happen again.
In those first days after Newtown, President Obama asked me to lead a task force that met with 229 different groups. We submitted a sweeping plan to change our gun laws and make our children and communities safer. We announced 23 executive actions to strengthen the gun background check system, restart public health research on gun violence, help schools establish emergency management plans, and more. We also put forward legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales, but the Senate defeated that bill in April 2013.
Since then, thousands more people have been hit in hundreds more shootings at schools — from Marysville, Washington, to Santa Fe, Texas, to Parkland, Florida — and in other mass shootings and daily acts of gun violence that may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to the families affected.
I had no illusions in 2013 about what we were up against, and I have no illusions today. The gun lobby has done and will continue to do everything in its power to stop us. Today, it has Trump and the Republican leadership in its pocket.
I said when I got into this race that I’m running to restore the soul of America. Few things make the need for that more clear than school shootings — what kind of nation are we if we simply accept that kids learn active shooter drills with their ABCs?
I know that we can defeat the NRA. I’m the only candidate in the race who has done it before — twice, when I was in the Senate.
As president, I’ll do it again. I’ll repeal the federal law that protects gun manufacturers from civil liability claims, finally forcing them to face up to the lives they’ve destroyed — a fight that so many courageous Sandy Hook parents are now waging. I’ll ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, incentivize states to enact red flag laws to get guns out of dangerous hands, and more. And, if Leader McConnell continues to block common sense gun safety reforms in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 — like closing the boyfriend and stalker loopholes — I will make enactment of those steps a priority in my first 100 days.
There’s a reason why I remain so optimistic that we will ultimately defeat the NRA. Its best efforts and all its gun-manufacturer money haven’t been able to squelch the momentum for change that Sandy Hook set loose. There’s a straight line from the brave parents of Newtown, many of whom have organized at the grassroots level and in the courts, to the activism of the Parkland students, to the millions of others who’ve said “enough” in the long years between and since then. This call for change is growing louder and louder, and is using every tool of our democracy, in the streets, voting booths, and courts.
Read Joe Biden’s full plan to end gun violence at joebiden.com/gunsafety.