Dec. 7 (UPI) — U.S. President Joe Biden praised victims of gun violence for turning their pain into progress by reigning in weapons that have caused them so much harm, as he urged survivors to continue to fight to save lives.
The president made the remarks Wednesday evening during a short speech at the 10th annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence held at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.
The event was founded to mourn the deaths of the Sandy Hook school shooting of Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, the majority children between the ages of 6 and 7.
Biden said since then, the church has opened its doors to receive further victims of gun violence, which “rips at the very soul, at the very soul of this nation.”
The president said events such as the vigil were hard for survivors because it transports them to the moment gun violence changed their lives and he thanked them for their courage.
“No matter how many years have passed, no matter how many years go by, it brings it back,” he said. “But your voices matter. Your voices matter.”
Biden remarked that he understands their pain, referencing the loss of his first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, and their daughter, Naomi, to a traffic collision on Dec. 18, 1972, as well as the death of his son, Beau Biden, in 2015 to brain cancer.
“It’s like a black hole in the middle of your chest you’re being dragged into and you never know if there’s a way out,” he said. “And what I admire so much about all of you is you show up.”
He said following the Sandy Hook shooting he was struck then by the courage of the victims’ families and their ability since to turn that pain into progress, referring to the bipartisan gun bill he signed into law in June, which has been credited as the most significant gun law in 30 years.
“But still not enough. Still not enough,” he said, adding that their work continues to pass common sense gun laws.
Biden pointed to such laws that were in place in the 1990s, stating that they saved lives and that it is possible to enact similar regulation again.
He then led those assembled in a moment of silence.
“May we ask God to give us the strength to finish the work left undone, on behalf of the lives we have lost and all the lives we can save,” he said.
Biden, who has championed gun regulations for decades, gave the speech as he pushes for an assault rifle ban and other reforms on the heels of several mass shootings, including a shooting last month at an LGBTQ Colorado Springs nightclub that left five people dead and more than 20 injured.
Prior to the speech, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Biden believes more needs to be done.
“He’s never going to stop talking about this,” she said. “He believes that speaking up and making sure that the American public is aware what his priorities are is important as well, and, look, in fighting for the scourge of gun violence that is killing our kids, leaving holes in our families and tearing up communities.”