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Biden marks 4-year anniversary of Parkland shooting with call to end gun violence

Biden details plan to combat rise in gun violence
Biden details plan to combat rise in gun violence 02:06

Washington — President Biden on Monday marked the four-year anniversary of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 people with a call for the nation to "uphold the solemn obligation" to bring an end to gun violence.

"We can never bring back those we've lost. But we can come together to fulfill the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe," Mr. Biden said in a statement on the tragic shooting. "For Parkland, for all those we've lost, and for all those left behind, it is time to uphold that solemn obligation."

Fourteen students and three faculty at the Parkland high school were gunned down on February 14, 2018, the deadliest high school shooting. Nikolas Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, pleaded guilty in October to murdering the 17 victims, and his sentencing trial, where jurors will decide whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison, is expected to begin in April.

The massacre sparked a student-led movement for more stringent gun laws, though efforts in Congress to pass major changes have stalled.

Mr. Biden lauded the efforts of young Americans who have pushed elected officials to tighten gun laws and said their "extraordinary movement is making sure that the voices of victims and survivors and responsible gun owners are louder than the voices of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association."

As part of his efforts to curb gun violence, the president last year announced a set of unilateral moves addressing the proliferation of so-called "ghost guns," handmade or self-assembled firearms that don't have serial numbers; crafting draft model legislation on "red flag" laws, which would temporarily bar people facing mental anguish or other crises from accessing firearms; and reviewing federal policy on the use of stabilizing braces on pistols. 

But Mr. Biden's nominee to helm the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Chipman, was withdrawn in September amid bipartisan concerns about his gun control advocacy. The agency has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015, and the president has not yet put forth another nominee.

Still, Mr. Biden reiterated the need for Congress to pass legislation to address gun violence, including requiring universal background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and getting rid of immunity for firearms manufacturers. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted the House approved a pair of bills last year expanding background checks on firearms sales and called on the Senate to send the legislation to Mr. Biden for his signature.

"Every child has the fundamental right to reach for their dreams, without fearing for their lives," she said in a statement on the anniversary of the shooting in Parkland. "As we mark this day of solemn remembrance, and every day, let us renew our commitment to ending the horrors of gun violence, restoring safety to our schools, workplaces and houses of worship, and building a world of peace for generations to come."

Despite the push for lawmakers to strengthen the nation's gun laws, it's unlikely such efforts will be successful in the current Congress, where Democrats and Republicans each control 50 seats in the Senate and 60 votes are needed for legislation to advance in the upper chamber.

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