The Safer Communities Act is the first nationwide, bipartisan gun violence bill to become law in 30 years. Depending on perspective, the law is either a monumental achievement or the bare minimum to fight gun violence.
President Biden signed the legislation last week, and today, the White House invited gun safety advocates and family members of victims to the South Lawn to commemorate the bill’s passage.
“Will we match thoughts and prayers with action? I say yes, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Biden said at the event, billed as a celebration.
Parents of Parkland school shooting victims were in attendance and many were outspoken about their varying opinions of the bill.
“This is part of the legacy of those that were massacred in the Parkland school shooting,” said Tony Montalto, who lost his daughter, Gina, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “This law will help save lives.”
Montalto is president of the non-partisan group Stand With Parkland, which strongly supported the legislation.
However, as the president gave his remarks, another Parkland parent, Manuel Oliver, shouted at Biden to create an office of gun violence prevention with a czar to oversee policy recommendations.
“I’ve been trying to tell you this for years,” Oliver is heard shouting in the crowd.
Biden said to let him talk, but as the Secret Service agents spoke to Oliver, he decided to walk out.
“This is far, far from being a celebration. It looks like a celebration, it looks like a wedding but it’s not," Oliver said before the event started. "I think there’s a lot that we still need to do, and I’m willing to do it.”
NBC 6 asked Tom Hoyer, who lost his son Luke at MSD High School, what he thought of Oliver interrupting the president.
“You know, we’re brothers in the same tragedy here, and I respect what he does, but probably not in this particular instance,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer was at the White House for the event as well. He is also a co-founder of Stand With Parkland.
"It’s such a milestone for me and for Stand With Parkland,” Hoyer said. “This legislation has all the things we were advocating for: mental health support in schools, school security and responsible firearms ownership."
"The pieces they have in there we think are pretty critical," he said. "Maybe this isn’t a home run, but it’s a solid double — maybe a triple.”
Hoyer says the law’s increased funding for the suicide hotline alone will save many lives.
“In addition to that, the red flag laws, funding for red flag laws, we believe deep in our heart that would’ve stopped the shooting in Parkland because the shooter had over 40 interactions with police, they had no tool to remove the weapons from the house,” Hoyer explained.
According to Manuel Oliver, this is the job of legislators. He says they can just do their job "and there’s no reason for us to get together and make a big deal out of it.”
“This is what we expect them to do," Oliver said. "They did it, it’s not enough, and we need to keep putting pressure so they do more.”
As a non-partisan group, Stand With Parkland takes no position on banning assault-style rifles such as the AR-15.
On that issue, Biden and Oliver are on the same page, each of them saying they will continue to push for such a ban, along with banning high-capacity magazines and instituting expanded background checks.
Biden said mass shootings went down during the ten years in which assault rifles were banned, and in the years since that measure expired in 2004, mass shootings tripled nationwide.