Jul 12, 2022

President Biden and Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks at Celebration of the Safer Community Act 7/11/22

President Biden and Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks at Celebration of the Safer Community Act 7/11/22
RevBlogTranscriptsBipartisan Safer Communities ActPresident Biden and Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks at Celebration of the Safer Community Act 7/11/22

President Biden hosts an event commemorating the historic achievement of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Read the transcript here.

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Dr. Roy A. Guerrero: (00:00)
Good morning.

Speaker 1: (00:00)
Good morning.

Dr. Roy A. Guerrero: (00:02)
My name is Dr. Roy A. Guerrero. I’m a pediatrician, and most importantly, I’m a born and raised Uvaldian. It is an honor to be here and celebrate the first major gun legislation in 30 years.

Dr. Roy A. Guerrero: (00:22)
It’s been 40 days since the massacre and now the makeshift memorial in downtown Uvalde consisting of wooden crosses, children’s pictures, candles, and colorful ribbons has been taken down. The dried white roses and the sun bleach Teddy bears have been taken away and stored. What remains is the hollow feeling in our gut, as we drive through our sleepy downtown, which quickly turns to pain and anger, as we sometimes accidentally approach the grounds of Robb Elementary School, a place no one likes to visit. I’m using this pain to speak to you today as a Uvaldian and to speak for the parents and victims who seek the truth, transparency, and ultimately accountability.

Dr. Roy A. Guerrero: (01:16)
These parents seek a safe and secure environment for their children. It’s been tough being a pediatrician in a community where children do not want to return to school and parents don’t want to send them there with the fear of a future attack. I see children daily with PTSD and anxiety that’s now leading to depression. I spend half my days convincing kids that no one is coming for them and that they’re safe. But how do I say that, knowing that the very weapons used in the attack are still freely available. Let this only be the start of the movement towards the banning of assault weapons. As I have said before, adults are stubborn. We’re resistant to change even when the change will make things better for ourselves. But especially when we think we’re immune to the fallout. As we have seen, no community is immune to the fallout. Rather, the fallout is landing in our backyard on a weekly basis.

Dr. Roy A. Guerrero: (02:23)
I commend the bipartisan legislators who work tirelessly to pass this bill. I thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for always standing with the community of Uvalde and allowing our voices to be heard. I invite everyone to move forward from this start of the change that will allow all of our children to make it to the end of our fight, which is a world where safety in schools is never doubted and weapons of war are not allowed in our communities. The Uvalde community thanks you for your love and support. And I’m honored to introduce our great champion, the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris: (03:16)
Good morning. Thank you, Dr. Guerrero for the introduction and for your courage and your compassion. You have been such a source of strength to the families of Vivaldi. And I know that is not without personal sacrifice. Thank you for your leadership. To our President, Joe Biden members of Congress, members of our administration, friends and fellow Americans, today is indeed an historic day. For 30 years, our nation has failed to pass meaningful gun violence legislation. Again and again, the American people have called for common sense action to protect our communities. Last month, Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Kamala Harris: (04:29)
Because, of our president’s leadership and because of so many of you, we have passed a law that will make communities around our nation safer. For my whole career, addressing gun violence has been one of my top priorities, first as a courtroom prosecutor, then as district attorney of San Francisco, where we created a gun specialist unit to go after violent offenders.

Kamala Harris: (04:56)
Then of course, as attorney general, where our office worked closely with the California bureau of firearms to investigate and seize firearms from those who unlawfully possess them. As a United States Senator, together with my former colleagues in the Senate, we supported various pieces of legislation to address this crisis. So I knew, and I know now, as so many of you do, that we are overdue in getting this work done, and I know it will save lives. Together, we gather with many of the leaders who made this law a reality. To the friends and family members of the victims of gun violence, in the face of so much pain, you have shown incredible strength, and it is a profound honor to stand with you today. To the members of Congress who are here with us in the face of so much pessimism, you passed a bipartisan law, you worked across the aisle and the product of that work will make our communities safer.

Kamala Harris: (06:15)
And that deserves applause. But as all of us know gathered here today, we would not be here, were it not for the vision, the courage, the unwavering determination of one particular individual, Joe Biden. Our president Joe Biden has fought for decades to end the terror of gun violence. He has taken on the gun lobby and won. As a Senator, Joe helped pass… Then I would’ve called him Joe, now I call him Mr. President… The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which as we know is a background check system that has prevented more than 3 million firearms from falling into dangerous hands. And he passed a 10 year ban on assault weapons in high capacity magazines. As vice president, Joe Biden led the Obama/Biden administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence. President Joe Biden knows the tremendous pain of gun violence. He has seen it up close. He has held hands with parents.

Kamala Harris: (08:03)
He has seen it up close. He has held hands with parents who lost children and with children who lost parents. President Biden knows the urgency of this fight and he will continue to do all in his power to protect the people of our nation. And now it is my honor to welcome Garnell Whitfield Jr., who I spent time with, and his family, mourning the loss of his beloved mother. Mr. Whitfield.

Garnell Whitfield Jr.: (08:37)
Thank you. Good morning.

Kamala Harris: (08:47)
Good morning.

President Biden: (08:47)
Good morning.

Garnell Whitfield Jr.: (08:48)
I’m at the wrong place. Madam Vice President, thank you for your kind introduction. But more importantly, on behalf of my sibling, Robin, Angela, Raymond, our father Garnell Sr. and our entire family, many of them whom are here today, but on behalf, especially my mom, we are eternally grateful and comforted by you and the second gentleman’s sincere expression of compassion and love shown by your attendance at our mother’s memorial service. As we shared with you then, she was a big supporter of you, and we are certain that she is still dancing around heaven all day just knowing that you were there.

Garnell Whitfield Jr.: (09:40)
My name is Garnell Whitfield, Jr., and I’d like to begin my remarks by saying the names of the victims of the Buffalo massacre. Roberta Drury, Celestine Chaney, Andre Mackneil, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Margus Morrison, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Pearl Young and Mrs. Ruth E. Whitfield, our 86 year old mother, all of whom went to the only supermarket in their community on May 14th to pick up groceries, believing that they were safe, but they were not. The devastating reality is that an individual armed with a weapon of war walked in with cameras rolling and massacred them in the name of a hateful ideology. My family, our families and our community are devastated, but their intent to divide us and to promulgate further violence within our community has failed miserably, for we have instead chosen to love over hate, to speak out rather than stay silent and to stand with those courageous enough to lead us.

Garnell Whitfield Jr.: (11:07)
To the signing of the most impactful gun legislation in over 30 years, we’re truly grateful for this day, but we know that this is only the first step. This new law will undoubtedly help and in some cases prevent future tragedies, but there is much more to do. We must address white supremacy and direct domestic terrorism. They’re the leading threat to our homeland and our way of life. So we must continue to fight.

Garnell Whitfield Jr.: (11:42)
And because we are led by a president who understands and has characterized this fight as one for the soul of our nation, a president who, through his own trauma and vast set of experiences understands and empathizes with all of us, and I’m not just saying that to be saying it because in the midst of our pain, he and the first lady showed up and they put their arms around us and promised to not only see that our immediate needs were met, but to work every day to mitigate the gun violence and divisiveness that is plaguing our nation. So we believe that we are well prepared for the road ahead, but it is just the beginning of that journey. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to introduce the person that we, the people, but more importantly, God, has chosen to lead us as such a time as this, President Joseph R. Biden.

Kamala Harris: (12:45)
We’re going to go this way.

President Biden: (13:09)
Good morning, everyone. Doc, thank you. Your heroism in treating wounded children in Uvaldi, many of whom you’ve known their whole lives and treated them with normal child problems as a pediatrician. It’s something we’ll never forget.

President Biden: (13:35)
Garnell, it’s good to see you again. I know how tough it is. A lot of people in here have been victims of gun violence, lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives. They understand your pain. And every time you stand up to talk about it, even for a good cause, it brings it all back like it happened yesterday, but thank you for the courage to do it. Jill and I will never forget the time we spent with you and your families.

President Biden: (14:08)
I want to thank the Vice President Harris and the second gentleman, members of the cabinet, eight of whom are here today, as well as mayors and elected officials from across the country. I want to particularly thank the governor of Illinois and the mayor of Highland Park for being here. We’ve had, no I mean it sincerely, we had a number of conversations immediately after the attack in Highland Park, and I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve handled things. It’s been extraordinary. And as the three of us have discussed, we have more to do. I also want to thank the bipartisan group of senators who worked so hard to get this done, especially senators Murphy, Sinema, Cornyn, and Tillis. Hope it doesn’t get you in trouble mentioning your name, thank you for your courage. As well as all the members of Congress who have worked on these issues for a long time, 80 of whom are with us today. And I’m sorry Senator Schumer and Blumenthal can’t be here today, but they’re working from home overcoming mild cases of COVID.

President Biden: (15:22)
I know how hard it is to get things done because I know how hard it was to write the first gun legislation, at least the first one in my career, that was passed nearly 30 years ago. That’s how long ago it was. And as I look out in this crowd, I see so many advocates and families, many of whom have become friends, whose lives have been shattered by gun violence and who have made it their purpose to save other lives. I’ve spent so much time with so many of you over the years that we’ve actually become personal friends. I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to continue to fight for other families. Another.

President Biden: (16:03)
… and is to continue to fight for other families. Nothing can bring back your loved ones, but you did it to make sure that other families don’t have to experience the same loss and pain that you’ve experienced. And you’ve felt, and you feel the price of an action that this has taken too long, with too much of a trail of bloodshed and carnage.

President Biden: (16:25)
And I know public policy can seem remote, technical, and distant from our everyday lives, but because of your work, your advocacy, your courage, lives will be saved today, and tomorrow, because of this. What we’re doing here today is real. It’s vivid. It’s relevant. The action we take today is a step designed to make our nation the kind of nation we should be. It’s about the most fundamental of things; the lives of our children, of our loved ones.

President Biden: (17:03)
We face, literally, a moral choice in this country. Moral choice with profound real world implications. Will we take wise steps to fulfill the responsibility to protect the innocent, and while keeping faith with the constitutional rights? Will we match thoughts and prayers with action? I say yes, and that’s what we’re doing here today.

President Biden: (17:29)
Today is many things. It’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence, because make no mistake… Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say. If you think-

Speaker 2: (17:43)
[inaudible 00:17:43].

Audience: (17:50)
President Biden, yeah.

President Biden: (17:53)
We have one. Let me finish my comments.

President Biden: (17:56)
Let him talk. No one… Okay.

President Biden: (17:59)
Because make no mistake about it, this legislation is real progress, but more has to be done. The provision of this new legislation’s going to save lives. And it’s proof that today’s politics, we can come together on a bipartisan basis to get important things done, even on an issue as tough as guns.

President Biden: (18:21)
And one more thing. It’s a call to action to all of us to do more, to take away from the legislature, that’s not what we can do. The takeaway from this is that now, now we’re of opening to get much more done. Senator Murphy has said, when you look at the biggest social issues America has faced throughout our history, “Success begets success.” And that’s when you, “Finally move that mountain.” You can ignite a movement when you do that, for more progress to follow. We finally moved that mountain, a mountain of opposition, obstruction, and indifference that stood in the way and stopped every effort of gun safety for 30 years in this nation.

President Biden: (19:11)
Now’s the time to galvanize this movement, because that’s our duty to the people of this nation. 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 4th, a parade became a killing field. That’s what we owe all of those families represented here today and all over this country, the past many years, across our schools, places of worship, workplaces, stores, music festivals, nightclubs, and so many other everyday places that have turned into killing fields. And that’s what we owe the families all across this nation, where every day, tragic killings that don’t make the headlines are more than passing mention, little more than passing mention in the local news. Neighborhoods and streets have been turned into killing fields as well.

President Biden: (20:09)
Today’s legislation is an important start, and here are the key things that it does; provides $750 million in crisis intervention and red flag laws, so the parent, a teacher, a counselor can flag for the court that a child, a student, a patient is exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening class space, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that makes them a danger to themselves and to others.

President Biden: (20:34)
Fort Hood, Texas, 2009, 13 dead, 30 more injured. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 1918, 17 dead, 17 injured. In both places, countless others suffering with invisible wounds. In both places, red flag laws could have stopped both those shooters.

President Biden: (20:59)
This new law requires young people, who are 21, to go on enhanced background checks before purchasing a gun. How many more mass shootings do we have to see, where a shooter is 17, 18 years old, and able to get his hands on a weapon and go on a killing spree?

President Biden: (21:18)
It closes a so-called boyfriend loophole. If you’re convicted of assault against your girlfriend or boy… You can’t buy a gun, you can’t do it. According to a recent study, over 50% of mass shootings, the shooters shot a family member or a partner. So if we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, we can save the lives of their partners, and we can also stop more mass shootings.

President Biden: (21:43)
One, this law includes the first ever federal law that makes gun trafficking and store purchase explicit federal crimes. It clarifies, who needs to register is a federal licensed gun dealer, and run background checks before selling a single weapon, and to invest in anti-violence programs, and work directly with the communities most at risk for gun crimes. And this law also provides funding vital for funding to address the youth mental health crisis in this country, including the trauma experienced by the survivors of gun violence.

President Biden: (22:26)
It will not save every life from the epidemic of gun violence, but if this law had been in place years ago, even this last year, lives would’ve been saved. It matters. But it’s not enough, and we all know that.

President Biden: (22:42)
In preparation for today’s signing, I asked to people to send me their stories about their experience with gun violence. I received over 2,500 responses in 24 hours. Didn’t get to read them all, but I read some. A 17 year old wrote me saying, ” A school shooting sophomore year had shattered every sense of normalcy I’ve ever felt. Almost three years later, I still have nightmares.” 24 year old wrote about growing up in what was “Seemingly endless era of gun violence.” A 40 year old wrote me about two friends shot and killed by abusive partners and former partners. Someone else wrote me about a six year old child who’s sitting near his father’s coffin, was asking “Why is daddy in that scary box? Wake up, daddy. Wake up, daddy.” His father had been gunned down. I read these stories and so many others.

President Biden: (23:37)
And I see the statistics. Over 40,000 people died from gunshot wounds last year in the United States. 25,000 by suicide. I think, can this really be the United States of America? Why has it come to this? We all know a lot of the reasons. Gun…

President Biden: (24:03)
How does it come to this? We all know a lot of the reasons. Gun lobby, gun manufacturers, special interest money, and the rise of hyperpartisan tribal politics in the country where we don’t debate issues on the merits, but we just rather turn on each other from our corners and attack the other side. Regardless, we’re living in a country awash in weapons of war, weapons that were designed to hunt are not being used. The weapon’s design that they’re purchasing, they’re designed as weapons of war, to take out an enemy.

President Biden: (24:35)
What is the rationale for these weapons outside war zones? Some people claim it’s for sport or to hunt, but let’s look at the facts. Most common rounds fired from an AR-15 move almost twice as fast as that from a handgun, a couple of smaller, lighter bullets, these weapons maximize the damage done coupled with those bullets and human flesh and bone is just torn apart. And as difficult as it is to say, that’s why so many people in some in this audience, and I apologize for having to say it, need to provide DNA samples to identify the remains of their children. Think of that.

President Biden: (25:17)
It’s why trauma surgeons who trained for years for these moments. No, it’s unlikely that someone shot with a high-powered assault weapon will make it long enough for the ambulance to get them to the hospital. It’s why these scenes of destruction resembling nothing like a weekend hunting trip for deer or elk. And yet, we continue to let these weapons be sold to people with no training or expertise.

President Biden: (25:44)
Case in point, America has the finest fighting force in the world. We provide our service members the most lethal weapons on Earth to protect America. We also require them to receive significant training before they’re allowed to use these weapons. We require extensive background checks on them and mental health assessments on them, require that they learn how to lock up and store these weapons responsibly. We require our military to do all that. These are common sense requirements, but we don’t require the same common sense measures for a stranger walking into a gun store to purchase an AR-15 or some weapon like that. Makes no sense.

President Biden: (26:25)
Assault weapons need to be banned. They were banned. I led the fight in 1994. Then, under pressure from the NRA and the gun manufacturers and others, that ban was lifted in 2004. In that 10 years, it was law. Mass shootings went down. When the law expired in 2004, and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled. They’re the facts. I’m determined to ban these weapons again and high capacity magazines that hold 30 rounds and to let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes. I’m not going to stop until we do it.

President Biden: (27:05)
Here’s another thing we should do. We should have safe storage laws requiring personal liability for not locking up your gun. The shooter in Sandy Hook came from a home full of guns and assault weapons that were too easy to access, weapons he used to kill his mother and then murdered 26 people, including 20 innocent first graders.

President Biden: (27:33)
If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it and keep it under lock and key. Responsible gun owners agree. No one else should have access to it. So, lock it up, have trigger locks. And if you don’t and something bad happens, you should be held responsible. I have four shotguns, two are mine, and two are my deceased son’s. They’re locked up, lock and key. Every responsible gun owner that I know does that.

President Biden: (28:16)
We should expand background checks to better keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitive, and those under domestic violence restraining orders, expanded background checks are something that the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners agree on.

President Biden: (28:34)
My fellow Americans, none of what I’m talking about infringes on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’ve said it many times. I support the Second Amendment, but when guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America … Let me say that again. Guns are the number one killer of children in the United States, more than car accidents, more than cancer. And over the last two decades, more high school children have died from gunshots than on-duty police officer and active duty military combined. Think of that. Then, we can’t just stand by. We can’t let it happen any longer. With rights come responsibilities. Yes, there’s a right to bear arms, but we also have a right to live freely, without fear for our lives in a grocery store, in a classroom and a playground, at a house of worship, in a store, at a workplace, a nightclub, a festival, in our neighborhoods, in our streets.

President Biden: (29:35)
The right to bear arms is not an absolute right to dominates all others. The perennial price for living in a community with others as being neighbors, of being fellow citizens, is that we obey the laws and customs that ensure that frame what the framers call domestic tranquility. That’s what civilization is. That’s what we have been at our best. That’s what America must always be, a place where we preserve the rights, but fulfill our responsibilities.

President Biden: (30:04)
I know this. There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our families, our children, and our fellow Americans. When I spoke to the nation after Uvalde, I shared how a grandmother who had lost her granddaughter gave me and Jill a handwritten letter. We spent four hours and almost five hours with them. And I read it. It reads, quote, “A race, the invisible line that is divided in our nation, to come up with a solution and fix what is broken and to make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again.” End of quote.

President Biden: (30:48)
That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here. Today, I want to thank those in Congress, both Democratic and Republicans who erase that invisible line dividing our nation and moved us forward on gun safety. It’s an important step. And now, we must look forward. We have so much more work to do, and I might add there’s $75 million in there for mental health reasons, a whole range of other things I’m not going to take time to go into today, but it’s important.

President Biden: (31:17)
May God bless all of us with the strength to finish the work left undone. And on behalf of the lives we’ve lost and the lives we can save, may God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you.

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