WASHINGTON (AP) - President Joe Biden is set to speak at vigil honoring victims of gun violence, an event taking place nearly 10 years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that spurred a new generation of advocacy for tougher firearms restrictions.
The White House says the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, being held Wednesday night at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, is a "service of mourning and loving remembrance for all who have fallen victim to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in America."
It will be the first time a U.S. president has spoken at the yearly vigil, which is now in its 10th year, according to event organizers. Though the observance is led by the Newtown Action Alliance Foundation, it is meant to honor all victims of gun violence nationwide and the group is expected to be joined by more than 100 other similarly-minded organizations.
Killed at Sandy Hook in the school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, were 20 first graders and six educators.
Biden, long an advocate for stricter curbs on gun use, signed the most significant restrictions in three decades in June, in the aftermath of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The legislation imposed stricter background checks for the youngest purchasers, restricted guns from more domestic violence offenders and made it easier for states to enact "red flag" laws that help authorities seize firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Biden has continued to push for more restrictions and regularly calls for a so-called assault weapons ban, though Congress lacks sufficient support to pass legislation that would restrict such high-powered weapons that can kill many people quickly.
"The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. Just sick," Biden said on Thanksgiving. "I'm going to try to get rid of assault weapons." He mentioned then that he would start counting votes in Congress for such a ban, although the White House declined to answer Wednesday whether Biden has done so.
The likelihood of lawmakers approving such restrictions will diminish even more next year, when Republicans will hold a narrow majority in the House.
Still, Biden feels the new law earlier this year alone was "not enough," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. "He believes that we need to do more, and he's been very vocal about that."