President Biden on Wednesday said his administration has made important progress toward curbing gun violence but acknowledged there was more work to do as the nation reels from several recent high-profile mass shootings.
Mr. Biden’s remarks came at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, an event to honor the survivors of gun violence and victims’ family members.
“We’ve seen you turn your pain into purpose,” Mr. Biden told the crowd. “Together, we made some important progress — [the] most significant gun law passed in 30 years — but still not enough.”
The president said his gun control proposals, including banning assault weapons, are “just common sense.” He pointed to the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has since expired.
“We did it. And guess what? It worked. The number of violent mass murders reduced were significant. A lot of people’s lives were saved. We can do it again,” Mr. Biden said.
The event was organized by the Newtown Action Alliance Foundation, a grassroots organization founded to remember those slain in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The massacre left 20 first graders and six teachers dead.
The vigil was at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Biden is the first president to attend the event, which has taken place every year since 2013. Roughly 150 families, survivors, students, and advocates participated in the vigil. Members of Congress and their staff were also invited to attend, though it’s not clear how many did.
Mr. Biden praised the attendees, telling them that their loved ones are always with them.
“They’re in your heart. They’re part of you,” he said.
The vigil follows a particularly bloody November that included three mass shootings. In Colorado Springs, Colorado, five people were killed and 18 were injured when a gunman opened fire in an LGBTQ nightclub; six people were killed in a break room at a Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart when an employee started shooting; and in Charlottesville, Virginia, a former football player killed three students after a field trip.
Mr. Biden, who served as the Obama administration’s point person on gun policy after Sandy Hook, has long advocated stricter gun laws since becoming president. He has called for banning assault weapons, including high-powered guns or semi-automatic long rifles such as the AR-15.
A weapons ban is unlikely to get far, with Republicans set to take control of the House next month. But with Democrats retaining control of the Senate, Mr. Biden could push for tighter gun control measures.
The president has had some legislative success on gun policy. Earlier this year, Congress passed a measure that enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21 years of age, provides billions of dollars for mental health services and blocks convicted domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm for five years.
Mr. Biden also oversaw the bipartisan confirmation of the first director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since 2013.