Biden celebrates passage of gun law at White House; families affected by shootings attend

ByLibby Cathey via ABCNews logo
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

"Over the last two decades, more high school children have died from gunshots than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think of that. We can't just stand by, we can't let it happen any longer," Biden said.

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden hosted hundreds impacted by gun violence on the White House South Lawn Monday to tout the first major bipartisan gun legislation to pass through Congress in nearly 30 years.

Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law last month, but the signing was somewhat overshadowed, coming one day after the Supreme Court released its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Monday provides the president a new opportunity to take a victory lap -- but it comes one week after another mass shooting at a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois, left seven dead and dozens wounded.

"I recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost 30 years into law, which includes actions that will save lives," Biden said in the Roosevelt Room addressing the latest mass shooting. "But there is much more work to do, and I'm not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence."

MORE: Biden signs most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, says 'lives will be saved'

Gun violence survivors and family members of victims of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, attended, as well as survivors and family members from the Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland mass shootings, among others. But while many in attendance praise the legislation, some gun safety advocates lament that it doesn't go far enough.

"There's simply not much to celebrate here," said Igor Volsky, director of the private group Guns Down America, according to the Associated Press. "It's historic, but it's also the very bare minimum of what Congress should do."

A group from Santa Fe joined Biden for the ceremony four years after a deadly high school shooting that claimed the lives of eight students and two teachers.

Christina Delgado, the mother of a local student, Rhonda Hart, who lost her daughter in the 2018 shooting, and Flo Rice, who was injured, were at the White House.

SEE RELATED STORY: Santa Fe High School shooting victim's mom rails against guns in classroom

Delgado has been working with the families of victims and injured survivors from the May 18, 2018 shooting. She said she knew she had to act when her daughter, who was in 7th grade at the time, asked her how she was going to be safe going to school.

Rice and her husband Scot were also invited to the Capitol. She was a substitute art teacher that day, was severely injured in the school shooting.

"The feeling of all the other survivors that were there. It's so helpful to be unified," Rice said.

SEE ALSO: Victims in Santa Fe school shooting families invited to White House signing of gun reform bill

Guns Down America and other gun violence advocacy groups hosted a counter-programming event Monday outside the White House calling on Biden to establish an office at the White House to more urgently address gun violence.

Ahead of Monday's event, Biden asked Americans in a tweet to text him their stories of how gun violence has impacted their communities, looking to tout how the new law will help stop similar violence.

"Today is many things. It's proof that despite the nay-sayers we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence," Biden said on Monday. "This legislation is real progress but more has to be done. The provision of this new legislation is going to save lives and it's proof that in today's politics we can come together on a bipartisan basis to get important things done even on an issue as tough as guns."

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes $13 billion in new spending for mental health programs and for securing schools. It also makes background checks stricter for gun buyers under 21, helps to close the so-called boyfriend loophole to restrict domestic violence offenders from purchasing guns, and incentivizes red flag laws to remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

WATCH: Firearm storage bill that passed House bears Santa Fe HS victim's name

But Monday's celebration was marred by yet another mass shooting, the July 4th parade massacre in Highland Park, IL.

"Unfortunately with what happened on July 4th, and that horrific shooting it really took the wind out of our sails. And it just reinforced that sadly this is not enough. This is just not enough, and we were at this bipartisan meeting, and the fact that they came together, and made changes together is phenomenal. But, it's not enough to save lives," Rice said.

Closing out his remarks, Biden vowed to keep the gun reform momentum moving forward. To keep fighting with the families who joined him on the lawn Monday.

"Over the last two decades, more high school children have died from gunshots than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think of that. We can't just stand by, we can't let it happen any longer," Biden said.

But it doesn't go as far as many wanted, including Biden, lacking measures such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Biden is expected to urge Congress to confirm Steve Dettelbach to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

He will also call on Congress to bring him "legislation that would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, strengthen background checks, and enact safe storage laws," according to the White House.

The president's call for more congressional action comes as the Senate returns from its July 4th recess Monday. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will not be at Biden's event, as he is isolated with COVID-19.

Schumer's positive test serves as a reminder that COVID is still a looming threat, though the close spacing of chairs on the White House South Lawn Monday doesn't appear to reflect that concern.

Correction: A previous version of this report suggested that Biden would sign the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Monday. Biden signed the bill last month.

ABC Owned Television Stations' Charly Edsitty, Shelley Childers and ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.