President Joe Biden will travel to Connecticut next Friday, June 16, as lawmakers and administration officials convene for a summit in West Hartford to commemorate one year since Congress passed the first major gun safety bill in decades.
The White House did not publicly provide any other details beyond his plans to visit Connecticut. But it informed state officials that the president will attend and play a role at the summit, sources told the CT Mirror.
Members of Biden’s administration, including Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, will also be involved with the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford. Cardona used to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and two national gun safety groups – Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety – are hosting the summit to keep advancing their legislative priorities to curb gun violence, while marking the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
Biden has strong ties to Connecticut and its lawmakers, who have endorsed his reelection campaign for 2024. The president has tapped Murphy and Gov. Ned Lamont to serve as campaign surrogates to engage with voters and amplify his messaging. Lamont, who signed into law this week an update to Connecticut’s gun laws, is also expected to speak at the upcoming summit.
The Murphy-led bill was the first federal legislation addressing guns to pass in almost 30 years, and Biden signed it into law on June 25, 2022. The president is a major proponent of universal background checks and an assault weapons ban at the national level — two key priorities that were left out of the bill because they could not gain enough Republican support.
As a senator, Biden played a key role in Congress implementing a federal assault weapons ban in 1994, but it expired in 2004 and has not been restored despite pushes from some Democratic lawmakers and gun control advocates. In the absence of further action on guns over the past year, the president announced additional executive actions last month to expand provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
“We can’t end this epidemic until Congress passes some common sense gun safety laws that keep weapons of war off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people, until states do the same thing,” Biden said in a speech last month marking one year since the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
While future action on guns looks unlikely, Congress was able to defy the odd and partisan gridlock last year. More than two dozen Republicans in both the House and Senate joined Democrats in supporting the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
The bill strengthened background checks for those buying firearms under age 21 and incentivized states to pass “red flag” laws that permit a court to temporarily prevent someone from buying a gun if they are a threat to themselves or others. It also provided substantial funding for schools and mental health services.
To highlight that momentum, the summit will feature members of Congress, administration officials and others involved in the gun safety movement including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.
“I’m very happy that we have finally broken through, [but] we’re not done. We can’t rest until we’ve passed things like universal background checks, [until] we’ve got these assault weapons off the streets,” Murphy said in an interview late last year. “And I will continue to judge the success of my time in politics by a measure of how well we do in securing the country from the plague of gun violence.”
CT Mirror staff writer Mark Pazniokas contributed to this report.