On the fourth anniversary of the high school tragedy, victims’ families aren’t impressed with the man who bragged that he’s “the only person that has beaten the NRA nationally.”
Four years after 17 people — the vast majority of them children — were shot and killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Biden is touting his accomplishments on gun reform, and urging Congress to do more to rein in America’s addiction to gun violence.
“We can never bring back those we’ve lost,” Biden said in a statement commemorating the anniversary of the Parkland massacre. “But we can come together to fulfill the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe.”
“For Parkland, for all those we’ve lost, and for all those left behind, it is time to uphold that solemn obligation,” he continued.
It’s true that Biden has taken a number of concrete actions toward some degree of gun control. He pushed to limit the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns” that can be printed and manufactured by ordinary citizens, without registration or background checks; he has similarly gone after modular “braces” that dramatically increase the efficacy of handguns; he has directed the Justice Department to craft model “red flag” laws to be used, should a state choose, as a template for their own legislation to prevent people deemed a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a gun.
Those accomplishments, however, are a far cry from his campaign rhetoric on more far-reaching, dramatic proposals, such as expanded background checks and banning assault-style weapons. For a man who once boasted that he’s “the only person that has beaten the NRA nationally,” Biden’s actual track record as president has been decidedly lackluster.
It’s a gap between rhetoric and action that has not gone unnoticed by a group that’s seen the devastation unchecked gun violence can cause. While Biden spent the morning touting his successes and placing blame on congress, members of the Parkland community itself— from survivors, to families who lost loved ones — used this anniversary to demand more from the White House.
Speaking with CNN on Monday morning, former Parkland student David Hogg, one of the most visible, vocal gun reform activists to come out of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, insisted that Biden’s focus on congressional action belied concrete steps the White House could take immediately to curb the proliferation of firearms.
“President Biden needs to do something, because there are certain things that he’s leaving on the table that he can do right now,” Hogg told the hosts of New Day. “Like creating a national office of gun violence prevention, and a national director of gun violence prevention, and creating a comprehensive plan to dramatically reduce gun deaths before the State of the Union that he can do right now, regardless of the filibuster and regardless of what’s going on in the Senate.”
While Hogg was speaking with CNN, Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed during the Parkland shooting, was making a very different kind of statement — scaling a massive construction crane near the White House to highlight Biden’s ineffectiveness on gun reform with a banner proclaiming “45K PEOPLE DIED FROM GUN VIOLENCE ON YOUR WATCH!”
Oliver, through his group Change The Ref, has long been at the forefront of highlighting the human cost of inaction on gun violence. Speaking with local media on the ground, Oliver’s wife and Change the Ref co-founder Patricia was unequivocal in her support for Manuel’s protest, explaining, “We are here to do whatever is in our hands, so whatever happens, happens.”
Nearby, Hogg himself also highlighted Oliver’s protest, directing the public to his newly launched website Shockmarket.org, a NASDAQ-style visualization enumerating the scale and scope of gun violence in the United States.
While Biden has not responded to Hogg and Oliver’s protests directly, he did reiterate his call for legislative action on Twitter, writing that he stands “with those working to end the epidemic of gun violence. Congress must act.”
Then, less than half an hour later, he posted a Valentine’s Day tweet to his wife.