President Joe Biden renewed his calls for a ban on assault weapons and said the nation still had far more work to do to rein in gun violence at a vigil on Wednesday, nearly 10 years after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Biden spoke at the 10th National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which began after the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut. 26 people, including 20 students, were killed by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic rifle.
“At the time, it was astounding to see even then the courage that was represented,” Biden said, the first president to attend the event. “We’ve seen you turn pain into purpose. Together, we made some important progress … but it’s still not enough.”
Jackie Hegarty, 17, a survivor of the attack, said she was just seven years old at the time.
“I heard and saw things no child, no person should ever have to see. It was impossible to imagine,” she said at the vigil, calling Biden a “gun safety champion.”
“We are asked to be brave while hiding under our desks in our classrooms, while too many elected officials lack the courage to pass common-sense laws to save our lives.”
“Thankfully, we have a president who does more than send thoughts and prayers,” she added before introducing Biden.
Democrats have faced a growing push to pass new gun control legislation while the party still controls both chambers of Congress before the GOP regains the House in January. Biden said last month he would “try to get rid of assault weapons” during the lame-duck session, saying he would begin counting votes to do so if it were possible. His comments came after two mass shootings, one at a gay nightclub in Colorado and another at a Walmart in Virginia.
The president signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into law in June. While the law only included modest curbs on gun purchases and some enhanced background checks, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who represents the state where Sandy Hook took place, called it the “most significant piece of anti-gun violence legislation Congress has passed in three decades.”
Biden pointed to the legislation on Wednesday, saying lawmakers still needed to work towards passage of new laws that were “just simple common sense.”
“We did it and guess what. It worked,” he said. “We can do it again.”