School Climate & Safety

Biden Decries School Shootings at White House Event Marking New Gun Measure

By Mark Walsh — July 11, 2022 4 min read
President Joe Biden speaks during an event to celebrate the passage of the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act," a law meant to reduce gun violence, on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, July 11, 2022, in Washington.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

President Joe Biden on Monday highlighted mass shootings at schools and other recent incidents of gun violence before some 1,700 guests on the South Lawn of the White House to commemorate the recent passage of gun-control legislation.

“Make no mistake about it: This legislation is real progress, but more has to be done,” Biden said, reiterating his calls for the restoration of a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But an attendee who lost a son in a mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 interrupted the president at one point demanding that even more be done before he was escorted out.

The event was organized to mark the passage in June of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which denies firearms to a broader category of domestic abusers, empowers authorities to remove weapons from people judged to be dangerous, and toughens requirements for young people buying guns. Biden signed the measure on June 25.

“That’s what we owe those families in Uvalde, where an elementary school became a killing field,” the president said, referring to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in the Texas town that killed 19 children and two teachers.

Roy Guerrero, a Uvalde pediatrician who has spoken out about the horrific damage that the victims of that shooting suffered, was one of only four people to speak at the event, along with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose mother was among the 10 people killed in the racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in in Buffalo, N.Y., in May. All those killed were Black.

“It’s been tough being a pediatrician in a community where children don’t want to return to school and parents don’t want to send them there with the fear of the future attack,” Guerrero said.

See also

Sign indicating school zone.
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety Interactive School Shootings in 2022: How Many and Where
January 5, 2022
3 min read

Biden said the “red-flag” provision of the new law could have prevented the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed.

“How many more mass shootings do we have to see where a shooter is 17-, 18-years old and able to get his hands on a weapon and go on a killing spree?” Biden said.

The law also provides funding to address “the youth mental health crisis in this country,” the president said

“Guns are the number one killer of children in the United States,” Biden said. “More than car accidents. More than cancer. And over the last two decades, more high school children have died from gunshots than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think of that. … We can’t let it happen any longer.”

A Parkland father interrupts the president and demands more be done

The event took a dramatic turn early on when a guest stood and interrupted the president after Biden said the new law was evidence “we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence.”

“We have to do more than that!” said Manuel Oliver, according to the Associated Press. Oliver’s son Joaquin was killed in the Parkland shooting. “I’ve been trying to tell you this for years,” Oliver continued.

“Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say,” Biden said when he was first interrupted. “Let me finish my comments.” Then, the president said, “Let him talk. Let him talk.” But a White House aide confronted Oliver and escorted him from the South Lawn.

Oliver said on CNN Monday that he objected to unspecified references to the event as a “celebration” of the new gun-control law, “getting together like we’re going … to a wedding today, you know, would all receive invitations. ... And meanwhile you can see these mothers [from Uvalde] that just saw how their kids were massacred inside the school.” (The White House referred to it as an event “commemorating” the law.)

Another outspoken Parkland father had a different attitude about the White House event.

“Today is a big deal,” Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, said in an interview with Education Week outside the West Wing. “Today is a day that is going to lead to really saving lives.”

Guttenberg attracted attention in the fall of 2018 when he sought to shake hands with then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing, only to be rebuffed. Kavanaugh said he was not aware Guttenberg was the father of a Parkland victim and that he would have shaken his hand.

“My daughter stands on my shoulders,” Guttenberg said Monday. “And I just know with pride, that she’s proud of what happened today, because her life will be forever attached with the idea that there will be lives saved. For my wife and I … that’s a big deal.”

After the event, Guttenberg could be seen greeting Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, and Highland Park, Ill., Mayor Nancy Rotering outside the West Wing. Biden had met with Pritzker and Rotering privately and mentioned them in his speech as they attended the Monday event one week after the mass shooting in that Chicago suburb that killed seven people during a community Fourth of July parade.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Another State Will Let Teachers Carry Guns. What We Know About the Strategy
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns with administrators' permission a year after the Covenant School shooting.
5 min read
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee could join more than 30 other states in allowing certain teachers to carry guns on campus. There's virtually no research on the strategy's effectiveness, and it remains uncommon despite the proliferation of state laws allowing it.
George Walker IV/AP
School Climate & Safety Video WATCH: Columbine Author on Myths, Lessons, and Warning Signs of Violence
David Cullen discusses how educators still grapple with painful lessons from the 1999 shooting.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Much Educators Say They Use Suspensions, Expulsions, and Restorative Justice
With student behavior a top concern among educators now, a new survey points to many schools using less exclusionary discipline.
4 min read
Audrey Wright, right, quizzes fellow members of the Peace Warriors group at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Wright, who is a junior and the group's current president, was asking the students, from left, freshmen Otto Lewellyn III and Simone Johnson and sophomore Nia Bell, about a symbol used in the group's training on conflict resolution and team building. The students also must memorize and regularly recite the Rev. Martin Luther King's "Six Principles of Nonviolence."
A group of students at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School participates in a training on conflict resolution and team building on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Nearly half of educators in a recent EdWeek Research Center survey said their schools are using restorative justice more now than they did five years ago.
Martha Irvine/AP
School Climate & Safety 25 Years After Columbine, America Spends Billions to Prevent Shootings That Keep Happening
Districts have invested in more personnel and physical security measures to keep students safe, but shootings have continued unabated.
9 min read
A group protesting school safety in Laurel County, K.Y., on Feb. 21, 2018. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, parents and educators are mobilizing to demand more school safety measures, including armed officers, security cameras, door locks, etc.
A group calls for additional school safety measures in Laurel County, Ky., on Feb. 21, 2018, following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three staff members died. Districts have invested billions in personnel and physical security measures in the 25 years since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Claire Crouch/Lex18News via AP