Dec 8, 2022

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence Transcript

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNational Vigil for All Victims of Gun ViolencePresident Biden Delivers Remarks at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence Transcript

President Biden joins survivors and families impacted by gun violence to deliver remarks at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):

Good evening, everyone. I am so pleased to be here tonight to join my friends, my hero, Jackie Haggerty, from Newtown, Connecticut, to introduce to you tonight our honored guests. We are so pleased to be here in the presence of so many friends, advocates, Madame Speaker, members of Congress, public servants. There’s probably not another public figure in the world than Joe Biden. He’s a public figure beyond all others. But when I think of my president, the image that lives in the front of my brain is a speech he gave, or an election he won, or a bill he passed.

What I remember are two conference rooms nearly 10 years ago in Danbury, Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal and I had invited then Vice President Biden to come to Connecticut in the aftermath of Sandy Hook to talk to our state, our grieving and our hurting state, about the path forward.

After the speech, President Biden asked for time with the Sandy Hook families. And it won’t surprise you that he told his plane to wait for hours as he sat in a conference room at Western Connecticut State University until he had held every hand, hugged every grieving parent, and wiped away every tear.

He was two hours late for his plane when he walked out of that room. But at that time, of course, the cameras had all left. The reporters were gone and standing outside that conference room wasn’t Joe Biden the vice president. It was Joe Biden the person. And what happened next is something I’ll never forget.

He was already two hours late for his plane. But he didn’t leave because somebody told him that in another conference room across the hall were a different set of families, families that no one in America had really heard about, moms and dads who had lost their sons and daughters to gun homicides in Bridgeport, in New Haven, and Hartford. Joe Biden knew that their pain wasn’t any less debilitating than the pain of the Sandy Hook families. And so, he told his people that he wasn’t going anywhere. He walked into that second room, and he held every hand. He hugged every crying parent. He wiped away every tear.

And then for hours, I was there. I watched this happen. He sat in a chair and listened to every single parent tell one of the most powerful people in the world the story of their child, who he was and who he wouldn’t, and who he would’ve been if not for our nation’s gun laws. When Joe Biden’s term as vice president was over, he could have looked back on a career well done a public life that made enormous difference. He deserved a rest. And I guess I don’t know all the reasons why he decided to offer himself up for service again this time as president. He probably knew that he was the only person who could lead the country out of these dark days.

But having seen firsthand how much the pain of those parents from both Sandy Hook and Hartford meant to him, I think I know that he believed he still had work to do. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the First Gun Safety bill in 30 years would not have passed without Joe Biden’s leadership. It just wouldn’t have. And what I find so amazing about our president is that he didn’t wait a week after he signed that bill before he started demanding that Congress do more universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

And so, on behalf of Senator Blumenthal and Congresswoman Hayes and the urging of the vigils organizers, we invited President Biden to join us here tonight. To many, it might have seemed like a long shot. But a lot of us knew that it wasn’t because we’ve seen President Biden when the cameras are on, like when he moved the country, almost single handedly to action after Buffalo and Uvalde. But also, we’ve seen him when the cameras are off. That’s why we’re so excited to have him here today.

But the introduction of President Biden is not mine. But it will be Jackie Haggerty. Jackie Haggerty is a hero of mine as I mentioned. She was a second grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, 2012. Her classroom was just across the hall from those classrooms we know so much about today. Today, she’s a courageous survivor, and she is a courageous advocate for tougher common sense gun laws. Jackie Haggerty.

Jackie Haggerty (04:59):

My name is Jackie Haggerty. I am 17 years old. And I co-lead the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance at Newtown High School. A week from today, we’ll mark the 10 years since I survived the Sandy Hook School shooting. At the time, I was only seven years old. I heard and saw things no child, no person should ever have to see. It was impossible to imagine that 26 innocent lives were killed in the same building I was in.

There were moments in that classroom where I sat worrying that I would die, worrying that that door would burst open. And I would never go home see my mommy, daddy, and my siblings. But that door wasn’t opened until first responders had come to save us. That day, I survived because the shooter armed with an AR-15, chose the left instead of right in that hallway. The last 10 years have not been easy, but living my life honoring the victims has helped, being kind like Principal Dawn Hochsprung and choosing love like Jesse Lewis and so many others.

Tonight, family, friends and survivors gather from across the country to remember the people that were taken too soon by gun violence and make a commitment to honor the lives of those we love by taking action.

For the last decade, our childhood has been stolen by gun violence. Guns are now the number one killer of children in America. And we are asked to be brave while hiding under our desks in our classrooms while too many elected officials lack the courage to pass common sense laws to save our lives.

Thankfully, we have a president who does more than send thoughts and prayers. He has already passed more executive actions on gun safety than any other president. And he has relentlessly pushed for a ban on weapons of war. He understands that we are living in fear and we have suffered enough. It is my privilege to introduce President Joe Biden, our gun safety champion.

Joe Bide (07:04):

Thank you. I’m sure if the lights are on, all of you instead of me, there’s a lot of people in this church that I know and have not only console one another, but have taken time to console me in the loss of my family. Jackie, thank you for the introduction. More importantly, thank you for your courage.

Folks, events like this are hard. They’re hard for all of you because it brings back the very moment that everything happened, no matter how many years pass, no matter how many years go by. And it brings it back. But your voices matter. Your voices matter a great deal. Rector Morgan, thank you for welcoming us to St. Mark’s, to remember, to heal and to fulfill a purpose.

10 years ago, this nation’s vigil was created here in Washington to pray for the souls of Sandy Hook and their families, families. Ever since this, that time, this has been opening its doors to more victims and more families of a violence that rips at the very soul, at the very soul of this nation.

To all of you here tonight, it’s under different circumstances, but I know a little bit what the loss feels like. It’ll be an anniversary on the 18th of this month that I lost my wife and daughter, and nearly lost my two sons when a tractor trailer broadsided them. And it’s not long after that, the anniversary of losing my son. I know that feeling. Everyone is different, but I know that feeling. It’s like a black hole in the middle of your chest you’re being dragged into. And you never know if there’s ever a way out. And what I admire so much about all of you is you show up and remember, because remembering brings it back the very moment that it happened.

But all of you, and all of you at the time, and I spent several days up at Sandy Hook and then went back, at the time, it was astounding to see, even then, the courage that was represented. Jill and I met with you, prayed with you, and have worked with you. We’ve seen you turn pain into purpose. Together, we’ve made some important progress, the most significant gun law passed in 30 years, but still not enough. Still not enough.

Even as our work continues to limit the number of bullets that can be in a cartridge, the type of weapon that can be purchased and sold, the attempt to ban assault weapons, a whole range of things that are just common sense. Just simple common sense. But we did it before. You may remember in the ’90s we did it with the help of the very people in here, led by Speaker Pelosi in the House and many others. And 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. And we can do it again. Scripture says, “The light shines in darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.”

To all of you here tonight, you are the light. You are literally the light. And your loved ones, your friends, they’re the light. And they’ll always be with you, no matter what happens. They’re always with you. How many of you ask yourself, “What would my son or daughter want me to do at this moment”? They’re in your heart. They’re part of you. They’re always going to be with you.

And at this National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence, I ask the country to join me in a moment of silence to remember every one of them. And we ask God to give us the strength to finish the work left undone done on behalf of the lives we’ve lost and all the lives we can save. May God bless you all and keep you safe.

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