'We are not finished.' Biden calls for assault weapons ban in Connecticut visit

President Joe Biden addressed hundreds of gun control advocates and mass shooting victims at the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford.

John Craven

Jun 16, 2023, 9:47 AM

Updated 337 days ago


Proclaiming “we are not finished,” President Joe Biden called for a national assault weapons ban during a visit to Connecticut Friday. Biden addressed hundreds of gun control advocates and mass shooting victims at the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford.
“We will ban assault weapons in this country. We will ban multi-round magazines,” Biden told the crowd. “We will hold gun makers liable. We will beat the gun industry.”
There have been at least 26 mass killings in the U.S. so far in 2023, killing at least 131 people. With incidents happening almost daily, Biden said the political tide is turning – although he acknowledged additional guns laws are unlikely this year.
“If this Congress refuses to act, we need a new Congress,” Biden said. “I think we’ve reached a tipping point in this country.”
The summit comes one year after Sen. Chris Murphy reached an historic deal with Republicans to pass the first major gun control package in three decades. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act made gun trafficking and “straw purchases” federal crimes, tightened background checks for younger gun buyers and funneled billions of dollars to states for “red flag” laws and mental health initiatives.
There has been success. Stepped-up FBI background checks have blocked more than 200 transactions of attempted purchasers under the age of 21. Prosecutions have increased for unlicensed gun sellers, and new gun trafficking penalties have been charged in more than 100 cases around the country. Prosecutions for those who sell firearms without a license doubled.
But the law fell far short of what many gun violence victims want. Former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011.
“We are at a crossroads,” she said. “We can let the shooting continue or we can act.”
While Congress remains stalled, Connecticut just expanded its assault weapons ban. Gov. Ned Lamont said the law has saved lives since it was first passed in 1993.
“The number of shootings, the number of suicides, are way down in Connecticut compared to those states that are so permissive,” Lamont told the crowd.
But outside, several dozen protesters said Connecticut's cities are still plagued with gun violence.
“My message to them is, go to the city of Hartford, where two people were killed. One shot someone in self-defense this week,” said Joe Visconti, who ran for governor as an unaffiliated candidate in 2018.
Top Republicans agreed.
“Given the crime in our suburbs and the gun violence we’ve seen in our cities, including two shootings this week right here in Hartford, Connecticut is hardly the shining example for ‘gun safety and anti-crime legislation’ Gov. Lamont advertised ahead of the president’s visit,” said Connecticut House GOP leader Vin Candelora (R-North Branford).
The National Rifle Association called the event a deflection.
"Dear Joe Biden, you're failing,” says a new NRA video. “In Joe Biden's America, our safety is not guaranteed. Our borders are not secure. Crime runs rampant.”
At least one group, led by attorney Norm Pattis, is already promising a legal challenge to Connecticut’s new law.
“We believe people have the right to make that decision, not the government,” said Pattis.
Gun laws now face tougher scrutiny after a major Supreme Court ruling last year, that set a new “historical” standard for firearm restrictions.
While this wasn't an official campaign stop, Biden is banking on gun control motivating frustrated voters in 2024.
Murphy said last summer’s legislation, plus Democrats’ strong showing in the 2022 midterms, proves gun violence is a winning campaign issue.
“Now, for the first time, because of the movement that we have built, it is gun safety voters – not the NRA – who matters most in Washington,” he said.
Following the summit, Biden travelled to Greenwich for a private campaign fundraiser. He plans to make similar stops in New York and other states in the coming weeks as Republicans are lining up to challenge him, including former President Donald Trump.

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