President Biden Signs Landmark Gun Measure
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
“Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” he said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Citing the families of shooting victims he has met, the president said, “Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that? ‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”
After Thursday’s passage by the Senate, Friday’s House approval was given. Biden took action just as he left Washington to attend two summits in Europe.
“Today we say, ‘More than enough,’” Biden said. “It’s time, when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential.”
The law will strengthen background checks for children buying guns, protect firearms from domestic violence offenders more often and allow states to establish red flag laws which make it easier for authorities take weapons from dangerous people.
The president called it “a historic achievement.”
The majority of the $13 billion will be used to support mental health programs, aid schools and other services. Schools were targeted in Newtown Connecticut and Parkland Florida as well as elsewhere during mass shootings.
Biden said the compromise hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators from both parties “doesn’t do everything I want” but “it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives.”
“I know there’s much more work to do, and I’m never going to give up, but this is a monumental day,” said the president, who was joined by his wife, Jill, a teacher, for the signing.
After sitting to sign the bill, Biden sat reflectively for a moment, then murmured, “God willing, this is gonna save a lot of lives.”
The president also announced that they would host an event for legislators and family members affected by gun violence on July 11. The president spoke of families “who lost their souls to an epidemic of gun violence. They lost their children, their husbands, and their wives. They will never be able to fill the void left by their children, husbands and wives. But they led the way so other families will not have the experience and the pain and trauma that they had to live through.”
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday striking down a New York law that restricted peoples’ ability to carry concealed weapons. And Saturday’s ceremony came less than 24 hours after the high court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion nationwide for nearly five decades.
“Yesterday, I spoke about the Supreme Court’s shocking decision striking down Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans. I mean so many Americans.”
Biden noted that enforcement of the abortion ruling is up to states. Some have moved to prohibit abortion, while others will shortly. Biden said his administration will “focus on how they administer it and whether or not they violate other laws, like deciding to not allow people to cross state lines to get health services.”
Asked by reporters about whether the Supreme Court was broken, Biden said, “I think the Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions.” He walked away without answering more questions, noting, ” “I have a helicopter waiting for me to take off.”
The new gun law doesn’t include the same tough restrictions as Democrats like an assault weapon ban and background check for all gun transactions. However, it is still the most important gun violence legislation Congress has ever passed. It was enacted in 1993 after Congress had repealed the long-expired assault weapons prohibition.
There were enough Republicans in Congress to support the Democrats’ steps following recent attacks in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde in Texas. After several weeks of discussions closed to the public, senators came up with a compromise.
Biden signed the bill just before departing Washington for a summit of the Group of Seven leading economic powers — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — in Germany. Later, he will fly to Spain for the NATO meeting.
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