Dec 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We should have societal guilt" for inaction on guns after Sandy Hook

President Biden speaking at the White House on Dec. 14.

President Biden speaking at the White House on Dec. 14. Photo: Brendan Smiaowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. should have "societal guilt" for not taking more action to address gun violence after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Why it matters: Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators.

  • Biden, who was serving as vice president at the time of the mass shooting, reiterated a commitment to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying they "have no purpose other than to kill people in large numbers."

What they're saying: "Ten years ago today at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation watched as the unthinkable happened," Biden stated.

  • "Twenty young children with their whole lives ahead of them. Six educators who gave their lives protecting their students. And countless survivors who still carry the wounds of that day," it continues.
  • "I am determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like those used at Sandy Hook and countless other mass shootings in America. Enough is enough."
  • "Our obligation is clear. We must eliminate these weapons that have no purpose other than to kill people in large numbers. It is within our power to do this – for the sake of not only the lives of the innocents lost, but for the survivors who still hope."

Former President Obama, to mark the anniversary, said in statement Wednesday: "I consider December 14th, 2012, the single darkest of my presidency."

  • "The news from Sandy Hook Elementary was devastating, a visceral blow, and like so many others, I felt not just sorrow but anger at a world that could allow such things to happen."

The big picture: Since Sandy Hook, semi-automatic, AR-15-style rifles and high-capacity magazines have been used in several mass shootings, including one earlier this year at another elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.

  • Earlier this year, Congress passed, and Biden signed into law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which came in response to multiple mass shootings and was the first significant gun-control policy change in years.
  • The law enhanced background checks for those under 21, provided funding for mental health and school safety programs and incentivized states to implement "red flag" laws and limits on the "boyfriend loophole."
  • Biden also signed an executive order requiring the regulation of "ghost guns," untraceable firearms that are becoming more prevalent in the U.S..
  • However, gun control advocates have urged Congress and the Biden administration to further address gun violence by passing stricter gun control policies.

Go deeper: Guns were leading cause of death for youth in 2020

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