Biden renews push for assault weapons ban — and calls for safe storage law

At a White House event meant to celebrate the recent passage of the bipartisan gun law, President Biden on Monday renewed his push for a new assault weapons ban while also calling for legislation to ensure safe storage of firearms.

“Assault weapons need to be banned,” Biden said on the South Lawn at a gathering of lawmakers and family members of mass shooting victims. “I’m not going to stop until we do it.

“We should have safe storage laws requiring personal liability for not locking up your gun,” the president continued, noting that the gunman who killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 came from a home “full of guns and assault weapons that were too easy to access.”

“If you own a weapon you have the responsibility to secure it and keep it under lock and key,” Biden said. “Responsible gun owners agree: No one else should have access to it, so lock it up.”

President Biden points toward the crowd as he stands at a microphone.
President Biden speaks on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Earlier in his remarks, Biden commended members of Congress, including Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who worked to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act following the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, and before the massacre in Highland Park, Ill., on July 4.

The legislation, which Biden signed into law last month, includes $13 billion for bolstering mental health programs and school safety, crisis intervention and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, under which unmarried people convicted of domestic abuse could still obtain weapons.

“Because of your work, your advocacy, your courage, lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this," Biden said.

But the new package does not include many of the tougher restrictions advocates had called for, including banning AR-15-style rifles, raising the purchasing age on such weapons to 21, or background checks for all gun transactions.

The president acknowledged that “we have more to do,” and described the new measures as progress.

“Now we have an opening to get much more done,” Biden said. “Now's the time to galvanize this movement. That's what we owe those families in Buffalo, where a grocery store became a killing field. It's what we owe those families in Uvalde, where an elementary school became a killing field. That's what we owe those families in Highland Park, where on July 4 a parade became a killing field.”

“Will we match thoughts and prayers with action?" the president added. “I say yes. And that’s what we’re doing here today.”

Manuel Oliver stands and points as he interrupts President Biden's speech.
Manuel Oliver interrupts President Biden’s speech on Monday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden’s speech was briefly interrupted by a protester, later identified as activist Manuel Oliver, who felt the new legislation didn’t go far enough.

“You have to do more,” Oliver could be heard shouting at the president.

Oliver’s 17-year-old son, Joaquin, was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

He urged the president to appoint a gun czar, something Biden pledged to do during his presidential campaign.

“We have one,” Biden responded.

As security approached Oliver, Biden said “Let him talk” before he was escorted out of the event.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House grounds, Oliver said he took issue with the event being billed as a “celebration.”

“The word ‘celebration’ has been used in the wrong moment,” he said.

He was also critical of the president’s tone.

“I think we need to fight back,” Oliver said. “You cannot be polite with gun violence because gun violence is not polite with you.”