Today being 7-11, one would have thought it would be a lucky day. But America being America, ever fascinated with guns and gun culture, it’s just another day of violence in which, on average, sees 96 people killed by guns. Oddly, too, it was one week ago on July 4th that a deranged gunman killed seven people at an Independence Day celebration in Highland Park, Illinois.
This morning, President Biden held a ceremony including several hundred guests at the White House to “celebrate” the passage of the “Bi Partisan Safe Communities Act,” the first significant gun legislation to have been passed in thirty years. Among the invited guests were gun violence survivors, victims, their families and relatives along with organizers and gun safety advocates.
While the president referred to the legislation as “real progress,” he conceded that more needed to be done to adequately address the ongoing horrific national problem including his call for a ban on assault weapons.
Biden’s speech was interrupted by Manuel Oliver who was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of his son Joaquin, 17, who was killed at Parkland. Oliver loudly spoke saying “You have to do more” and called upon Biden to open a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and appoint a gun czar. “You have to open an office in the White House. Name a director.” The president briefly paused before Mr. Oliver was escorted from the area.
The president referred to the bipartisan bill he signed last month at the time as “a historic achievement,” while gun violence advocates see the compromise legislation lacking real teeth in addressing the issue head on.
Before Biden’s White House ceremony began, “We the People for Sensible Gun Laws,” a gun safety advocacy group calling on legislators to pass sensible gun laws that recognize that guns are a public health issue, held their weekly vigil. The group has been doing so for the past several years engendering the public’s support to put an end to gun violence by applying sensible laws for purchase, registration and gun safety among other requirements. Fittingly, they had a banner calling for students to take back their schools.
After the White House ceremony, a breakaway group of attendees held a press conference at Lafayette Square across from the famous building to speak to the issue. Guns Down America founder and Executive Director Igor Volsky related that the Biden administration was not enthused in establishing a cabinet level Gun Violence Prevention Office to address the issue. The White House views a separate office as redundant by referring to a dozen “aides who are already tasked with these matters.”
He was followed by brief comments by survivors of those killed, along with Gail Schwartz of “Ban Assault Weapons Now” (BAWN) whose nephew Alex Schachter, 14, was one of the seventeen people killed at Parkland High School in Miami.
Manuel Oliver, who earlier had interrupted Biden during his speech, reiterated his call for a Gun Violence Prevention Office.
As reported by Politico, a letter sent to the president last week signed by several gun-safety groups referred to Biden by saying “We have a president who really hasn’t met the moment, who has chosen to act as a bystander on this issue. For some reason the administration absolutely refuses to have a senior official who can drive this issue across government.”
To a person, those who spoke at the press conference were in concert that not enough is being done and that legislators and the president lack the passion to move any significant legislation in addressing the issue.
(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink)
Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.