Newtown Well Represented At White House Safer Communities Event
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 11, President Joe Biden invited over 2,000 people to the South Lawn of the White House to commemorate the signing of the bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Among the attendees were members of several Newtown-based gun violence prevention groups, including the Newtown Action Alliance (NAA) and Sandy Hook Promise (SHP).
These groups were both formed in Newtown during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, and have been advocating for common-sense gun legislation for nearly a decade. After seeing success in Connecticut, they moved on to aiding like-minded efforts across the nation with the end goal of enacting change at a federal level.
“The people of Newtown have been waiting for a moment like this for ten years,” said former Junior Newtown Action Alliance Co-chair Jackson Mittleman, who was in attendance at the White House event. “Sure, we didn’t get the laundry list of legislative priorities we believed would be more effective, but what we did get is a step in the right direction, and that’s what counts.”
The Safer Communities Act was passed following two major instances of gun violence in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas. Alongside expanded background checks for citizens under the age of 21 and enhanced implementation of Red Flag laws, the act also prevents those convicted of domestic violence in dating relationships from purchasing firearms for five years.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both spoke at the event and were joined by representatives of Buffalo and Uvalde. First to speak was Dr Roy Guerrero, a physician at Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
Guerrero outlined the state of his town in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting. “It’s tough being a pediatrician in a community where kids don’t want to go back to school and their parents don’t want to send them,” he told the crowd.
Harris spoke next about the significance of the bill in the history of American gun legislation. “For 30 years, our nation has failed to pass meaningful gun violence legislation,” she said. “Again and again, the American people have called for commonsense action to protect our communities. Last month, their call was finally answered when President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
Garnell Whitfield Jr, whose mother was killed during the tragic Buffalo supermarket shooting in May, followed Vice President Harris. Whitfield expressed gratitude to the vice president for attending his mother’s funeral, before emphasizing the importance of the Safer Communities Act and other efforts to curb prevalent ills in the United States like gun violence and white supremacy.
Whitfield then introduced President Biden, who first took a moment to commend his fellow speakers for their efforts to aid their communities in times of grief. President Biden went on to describe the state of gun violence in America, suggesting that “we face, literally, a moral choice in this country — a moral choice with profound, real-world implications.”
“This legislation is real progress,” President Biden continued, “the provision of this new legislation is going to save lives.”
Amid the president’s remarks about the meaningful progress demonstrated by the bill, Manuel Oliver, who lost his son during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., interrupted the president’s address. Oliver countered Biden’s praise of progress, saying that “we have to do more.”
Chief architects of the Safer Communities Act, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), were also in attendance.
Murphy, who has been a long-standing champion of gun control legislation, took a moment to recognize the delegation from Newtown. “It’s really emotional to have so many people from Newtown here today and I’m so grateful for those in town who have been a part of this movement. I wish this happened ten years ago, it should have happened ten years ago,” he said.
“What we did here is just a start,” said Murphy. “We’re going to be able to bring Republicans and Democrats together in the future to make more changes and save more lives.”
Co-founder of NAA Po Murray shared Senator Murphy’s appreciation for the people of Newtown’s dedication to gun violence prevention. “I’m just really proud of the Newtown residents who are here to celebrate the first step in our effort to end the gun violence crisis,” said Murray, “but we know that we have more work to do.”