WASHINGTON — “Enough, enough,” President Joe Biden exclaimed over and over Thursday night, as he delivered an impassioned address to the nation imploring Congress to take action against gun violence after mass shootings he said had turned schools, supermarkets and other everyday places into “killing fields.”
If legislators fail to act, he warned, voters should use their “outrage” to turn it into a central issue in November’s midterm elections.
Speaking at the White House, Biden acknowledged the stiff political headwinds as he sought to drive up pressure on Congress to pass stricter gun limits after such efforts failed following past attacks.
He repeated calls to restore a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines — and said if Congress won’t embrace all of his proposals, it must at least find compromises like keeping firearms from those with mental health issues or raising the age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21.
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden asked after last week’s shootings by an 18-year-old gunman, who killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and another attack Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gunman shot and killed four people and himself at a medical office. “Don’t tell me raising the age won’t make a difference,” he said.
The most recent shootings came close on the heels of the May 14 assault in Buffalo, New York, where a white 18-year-old wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood, killing 10 people and wounding three others in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism.”
“This time we have to take the time to do something,” Biden said, calling out the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to pass legislation.
For all the passion of Biden’s address, and for all his big asks and smaller fallback alternatives, any major action by Congress is still a long shot.
“I know how hard it is, but I’ll never give up, and if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up either,” he added. “I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.”
Adding a stark perspective to young people’s deaths, he noted that Centers for Disease Control data shows “guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America,” ahead of car crashes.
“Over the last two decades, more school-age children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military — combined,” he said.
Aware of persistent criticism from gun-rights advocates, Biden insisted his appeal wasn’t about “vilifying gun owners” or “taking away anybody’s guns.”
“We should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave,” Biden said. “This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights, it’s about protecting children, it’s about protecting families.”
He called on Congress to end “outrageous” protections for gun manufacturers, which severely limit their liability over how their firearms are used, comparing it to the tobacco industry, which has faced repeated litigation over its products’ role in causing cancer and other diseases.
“Imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued, where we’d be today,” Biden said.
All major broadcast networks broke away from regular programing to carry Biden’s remarks at 6:30 p.m., before the start of prime-time shows.
Biden has given major speeches on the coronavirus pandemic and the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. But the president has used such addresses sparingly during his nearly 18 months in office, especially during evening hours.
Earlier Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the Oklahoma shooting, saying, “All of us hold the people of Tulsa in our hearts, but we also reaffirm our commitment to passing commonsense gun safety laws.”
“No more excuses. Thoughts and prayers are important, but not enough,” Harris said. “We need Congress to act.”
Visiting Uvalde on Sunday, Biden mourned privately for three-plus hours with anguished families. Faced with chants of “do something” as he departed a church service, the president pledged, “We will.” In his address, he spoke of being passed a note by a woman in a Uvalde church grieving the loss of her grandchild, calling on people to come together and act.
His Thursday night address coincided with bipartisan talks that are intensifying among a core group of senators discussing modest gun policy changes. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said the group is “making rapid progress,” and Biden has spoken to Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, among those leading Democrats’ efforts on the issue.
Democrats are hoping Biden’s remarks encourage the bipartisan Senate talks and build pressure on the Republicans to strike an agreement. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden is “encouraged” by congressional negotiations but the president wants to give lawmakers “some space” to keep talking.
The private discussions in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, are not expected to produce the kinds of sweeping reforms being considered by the Democratic-led House — which has approved expansive background checks legislation and will next turn to an assault weapons ban.
A House package debated Thursday — and approved by a committee, 25-19 — is less sweeping but includes a provision raising the required age for buying semi-automatic firearms to 21. It still faces slim chances in the Senate.
Instead, the bipartisan senators are likely to come up with a more incremental package that would increase federal funding to support state gun safety efforts — with incentives for bolstering school security and mental health resources. The package may also encourage “red-flag laws” to keep firearms away from those who would do harm.
While the Senate approved a modest measure to encourage compliance with background checks after a 2017 church mass shooting in Texas and one in Parkland, Florida, the following year, no major legislation cleared the chamber following the devastating massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Amelia Benjamin was familiar with the mission and programming of Area Substance & Alcohol Abuse Prevention long before she became the organization’s project director in February.
ASAAP is working in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties to prevent the abuse of alcohol and other substances through information, education and the support of the recovery community.
Benjamin, who lives in Superior, had volunteered with ASAAP. She worked previously as a photographer.
“So when the position became available, it just made sense,” Benjamin said. “It was one of those things that I knew would be a passion opportunity. Those don’t come around all that often. I’m really grateful that I landed here because it does allow me to continue some of the work that I find important in my personal life.”
Benjamin said she struggled as a high school student.
“I think people who do struggle as an adolescent carry that with them in all different ways,” she said. “The way I carried it with me is that as an adult I knew it would be my mission to make things easier, to bridge gaps, to do what I can for young people.”
Benjamin succeeds Kerry-Anne Block as project director.
Block, who started as ASAAP project director in 2013, became the organization’s executive director in December 2021.
“I’ve been very proud watching her do what she does because she’s very good at her job,” Benjamin said.
Block said Benjamin was a great fit for the project director position.
“I didn’t want to step into this (executive director) position and have somebody sit over there who did not care about the kids as much as I did,” she said. “That was something, for sure, I said to my board, ‘We need somebody here who has that passion and that fire.’ ”
Preventing the abuse of alcohol and other substances may be included in the name of Area Substance & Alcohol Abuse Prevention, but mental health is a big piece of that puzzle too.
“A huge part of substance abuse prevention really does encompass good mental health and encompasses feeling like you’re part of a group, feeling like you have a support system,” Block said.
Benjamin said each community has different needs.
“If we can see the gaps and look for those gaps and fill them as we see them — I love our organization because it’s not just a stand alone but we can be a filler of gaps and we can be a support to our public schools, to our police department,” she said. “We have so many community services already in force that are working and doing great things, but every community has gaps.”
Preventing substance abuse still is a priority for ASAAP.
“We’re not, by any means, stepping away from substance abuse prevention,” Block said.
“It just interlinks so closely,” Benjamin added.
Mental health first aid and suicide prevention always have been part of ASAAP.
“Because of COVID, there was that piece that we were working on the substance and alcohol abuse prevention curriculums in the school,” Block said. “Then the schools shut down. We knew, at that point there were a few students we were working with who we couldn’t walk away from because of the mental health.”
ASAAP now offers the evidence-based program COPE — Create Opportunities for Personal Empowerment — that promotes positive self-talk and cognitive behavioral therapy with students including stress busters and how to cope with stressors in daily life and how to promote positive self-talk.
“That’s hard to do if you don’t already have a positive dialogue going with yourself,” Benjamin said. “We all have struggled with that a little bit at some point, probably. It’s trying to change that inner dialogue and not remove all negative thoughts, but keep them on the up and up so they can have those positive self affirmations and don’t fall too hard into those negative thoughts.”
ASAAP received approval on May 23 from the Sunnyside Foundation for a grant to cover the COPE program for adults. The COPE program for adults will be offered online and in person.
ASAAP also offers a program called Strengthen Families that promotes positive and healthy communication and relationship skills. It is trying to improve dialogue and the way family members talk to each other.
Having a project director who lives in another one of the ASAAP counties is advantageous for the organization.
“It definitely gives us some flexibility, some different contacts,” Block said. “Sometimes in our rural communities too it’s harder for those communities to say, ‘Yes, you are 100% here for me.’ Whereas, now we can say ‘Yes, one of our staff is in Nuckolls County and they really care because they are living there, too.’ ”
ASAAP has its next quarterly breakfast June 17 at YWCA Adams County, trying to educate the community about opioids and addiction and prescription opioids and Narcan, which treats narcotic overdose and is now available at Russ’s Market Pharmacy.
ASAAP is trying to break stigmas.
“We know when we break stigmas it makes it easier for people to ask for help when they need help,” Benjamin said.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II stepped gingerly onto the Buckingham Palace balcony Thursday, drawing wild cheers from the tens of thousands who came to join her at the start of four days of celebrations of her 70 years on the throne.
Her fans sported Union Jack flags, party hats or plastic tiaras. Some had camped overnight in hopes of glimpsing the 96-year-old queen, whose appearances are becoming rare, and a chance to watch the Trooping the Color — a military parade that has marked each sovereign’s official birthday since 1760.
It was an explosion of joy in the massive crowd, one of the first big gatherings in the U.K. since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Everybody has got the same mission,” said Hillary Mathews, 70, who had come from Hertfordshire, outside London. “All the horrors that’s been going on in the world and in England at the moment are put behind us for a day, and we can just enjoy really celebrating the queen.”
Elizabeth, who became queen at 25, is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne.
Yet after a lifetime of good health, age has begun to catch up with her. Buckingham Palace announced late Thursday that the queen would not attend a thanksgiving church service Friday after experiencing “some discomfort” at events on Thursday. The palace said with “great reluctance” the monarch has decided to skip the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The queen has had trouble moving around in recent months, and has pulled out of many public events.
But Elizabeth took part Thursday night in lighting a chain of ceremonial beacons at Windsor Castle as planned.
The Jubilee celebrations go on for a long weekend, and it was not immediately known how the news would affect Jubilee events on Saturday and Sunday.
The palace says “the queen greatly enjoyed” Thursday’s events — and it showed.
She basked in her moment. Smiling, she chatted with her great-grandson Prince Louis, 4, who occasionally covered his ears as 70 military aircraft old and new swooped low over the palace to salute the queen. The six-minute display included a formation of Typhoon fighter jets flying in the shape of the number 70.
The queen, wearing a dusky dove blue dress designed by Angela Kelly, was joined on the balcony by more than a dozen royals — though not Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who gave up front-line royal duties two years ago. The couple traveled to London from their home in California with their two young children to take a low-key part in the celebrations, and watched Thursday’s Trooping the Color with other members of the family.
They did not appear on the palace balcony, because the monarch decided that only working members of the royal family should have that honor. The decision also, handily, excluded Prince Andrew, who stepped away from public duties amid controversy over his links with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew will also miss Friday’s service of thanksgiving after testing positive for COVID-19.
The jubilee is being commemorated with a four-day holiday extravaganza and events including a concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday and a pageant staged by thousands of performers drawn from schools and community groups around the country on Sunday. Thousands of street parties are planned nationwide, repeating a tradition that began with the queen’s coronation in 1953.
Not everyone in Britain is celebrating. Many people have taken advantage of the long weekend to go on vacation. And 12 protesters were arrested Thursday after getting past barriers and onto the parade route. The group Animal Rebellion claimed responsibility, saying the protesters were “demanding that royal land is reclaimed.”
Yet the jubilee is giving many people — even those indifferent to the monarchy — a chance to reflect on the state of the nation and the huge changes that have taken place during Elizabeth’s reign.
Former Prime Minister John Major, one of the 14 prime ministers during the queen’s reign, said the monarch’s stoic presence had helped steer the country over the decades.
“The queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.
In a written jubilee message, the queen thanked people in Britain and across the Commonwealth involved in organizing the celebrations. This country does like a good party.
“I know that many happy memories will be created at these festive occasions,” Elizabeth said. “I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me, and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved during the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.”
Congratulations arrived from world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Pope Francis. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread that binds our two countries” and former President Barack Obama recalled the queen’s “grace and generosity” during his first visit to the palace.
“Your life has been a gift, not just to the United Kingdom but to the world,” Obama told the BBC “May the light of your crown continue to reign supreme.”
Cheers and the clop of hooves rang out Thursday as horse-drawn carriages carried members of the royal family, including Prince William’s wife, Kate, and their children Prince George, 8, Princess Charlotte, 7, and 4-year-old Prince Louis, from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, a ceremonial parade ground about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away, for the Trooping the Color ceremony.
The annual tradition is a ceremonial reenactment of the way battle flags, or colors, were once displayed for soldiers to make sure they would recognize a crucial rallying point if they became disoriented in combat.
Prince Charles, the 73-year-old heir to the throne, played a key role during the event Thursday as he stood in for his mother — as he has more and more of late.
Clad in his ceremonial military uniform, Charles rode onto the parade ground on horseback and took the salute of the passing troops in their scarlet tunics and bearskin hats. He was flanked by his sister, Princess Anne, and oldest son Prince William.
Tens of thousands of locals and tourists lined the route between palace and parade ground to take in the spectacle and the atmosphere.
“I was right at the front ... I’m very proud of the queen,″ said Celia Lourd, 60. “She’s been my queen all my life and I think we owe her an awful lot for the service she’s given to the country. So I wanted to come to show my support today and say thank you.”
WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol will go public with its findings in a prime-time hearing next week, the start of what lawmakers hope will be a high-profile airing of the causes and consequences of the domestic attack on the U.S. government.
Lawmakers plan to hold a series of hearings in June that they promise will lay out, step-by-step, how former President Donald Trump and his allies worked feverishly to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election, spreading lies about widespread voter fraud — widely debunked by judges and his own administration — that fueled a violent assault on the seat of democracy.
The six hearings, set to begin June 9 and expected to last until late June, will be the first time the committee discloses “previously unseen material” about what it has discovered in the course of a sprawling 10-month investigation that has touched nearly every aspect of the insurrection.
The committee, which has called Jan. 6 “one of the darkest days of our democracy,” was formed in the aftermath to “investigate the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol.”
Unlike any other congressional committee in recent times, the panel’s work has been both highly anticipated by Democrats and routinely criticized by Trump and the former president’s allies, including some Republicans in Congress, who complain it is partisan.
More than 1,000 people have been interviewed by the panel, and only brief snippets of that testimony have been revealed to the public, mostly through court filings. The hearings are expected to showcase a series of witnesses but the committee has not yet publicly released the names.
The investigation has focused on every aspect of the insurrection, including the efforts by Trump and his allies to cast doubt on the election and halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory; the financing and organizing of rallies in Washington that took place before the attack; security failures by Capitol Police and federal agencies; and the actions of the rioters themselves.
The hearings are expected to be exhaustive, but not the final word from the committee, which plans to released subsequent reports on its findings, including recommendations on legislative reforms, ahead of the midterm elections.