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Biden speaks at gun violence vigil honoring victims of Sandy Hook ahead of somber 10-year anniversary

This is the first time a U.S. president has spoken at the yearly vigil, according to event organizers.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — *Article contains information from the Associated Press*

Next week marks ten years since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Wednesday evening the victims were remembered at The National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence in Washington D.C. The event is led by the Newtown Action Alliance.

"The last 10 years have not been easy but living my life honoring the victims has helped," said Jackie Haggerty. The now 17-year-old was in second grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec.14, 2012. 

A survivor of the school shooting that took place that day, she shared her story at the vigil.

"It was impossible to imagine that 26 innocent lives were killed in the same building I was in. There were moments in that classroom where I sat worrying that I would die," Haggerty said. "That day I survived because the shooter armed with an AR15 chose left instead of right in that hallway," she said.

Ten years later, she is the co-leader of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, a group of young people wanting to create change so that no other children face what they have. 

"For the last decade, our childhoods have been stolen by gun violence. Guns are now the number one killer of children in America," Haggerty said.

She introduced President Joe Biden at the vigil. It was the first time a U.S. president has spoken at the annual event. Then Vice-President Biden came to Connecticut after the tragedy. 

"It was astounding to see even then, the courage that was represented. Jill and I met with you, prayed with you, and have worked with you. We’ve seen you turn pain into purpose," Biden said.

Wednesday’s vigil is an example of that purpose as advocates from Connecticut and all over the country came together to call for action to end gun violence. 

"It brings us together to remember and to pledge that we will never forget. Never forget. All of those victims, all of the survivors, all of the loved ones who give us the strength to continue this fight," said Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal.

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.

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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 a 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.”

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at mmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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