President Biden said Monday that Congress must act to help Americans “keep each other safe” on the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 14 students and three staff members.
“On this difficult day, we mourn with the Parkland families whose lives were upended in an instant; who had to bury a piece of their soul deep in the earth,” the president said in a statement. “We pray too for those still grappling with wounds both visible and invisible. And, as we remember those lost in Parkland, we also stand with Americans in every corner of our country who have lost loved ones to gun violence or had their lives forever altered by a shooting, in tragedies that made headlines and in ones that did not .
“Out of the heartbreak of Parkland a new generation of Americans all across the country marched for our lives and towards a better, safer America for us all,” Biden continued. “Together, this extraordinary movement is making sure that the voices of victims and survivors and responsible gun owners are louder than the voices of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.”
Gunman Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in connection with the massacre.
“I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day,” said Cruz, now 23.
“If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others. And I am doing this for you, and I don’t care if you do not believe me.”
In Monday’s statement, Biden repeated many of the notes he sounded on a visit to New York earlier this month — touting a plan to curb the proliferation of so-called “ghost” guns, cracking down on gun dealers who break the law, and pushing safe firearm storage.
“The Department of Justice is also helping more cities adopt smart law enforcement models like the one I recently saw in New York City, in which federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to share intelligence and remove shooters from our streets,” he said.
“And Congress must do much more — beginning with requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers,” Biden insisted near the end of his statement.
“We can never bring back those we’ve lost. But we can come together to fulfill the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe,” the president added. “For Parkland, for all those we’ve lost, and for all those left behind, it is time to uphold that solemn obligation.”
There is no prospect of gun control legislation passing Congress anytime soon, and the issue has been forced to the back burner during Biden’s first year in office by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation and foreign policy challenges such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In June, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) unveiled a “zero tolerance” policy for “rogue” gun dealers accused of violating federal laws while the Justice Department announced new “strike forces” to slow the flow of guns into New York and four other major cities.
However, Biden was forced to withdraw David Chipman as his pick to head the ATF in September after Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Senate objected to his stance on gun control and raised concerns about allegations of racism.
In November, the Justice Department announced $139 million in COPS Hiring Program grants to help local forces hire 1,066 additional full-time police†
Despite the White House efforts, crime continues to surge in large cities like New York, which saw a nearly 60 percent hike earlier this month compared to the same period last year.