President Joe Biden has long been a leading voice on gun control, and his sponsorship of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines marked arguably the biggest win for that movement in U.S. history.

That legislation, originally only authorized for 10 years, expired in 2004. In the decade following the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Biden has become inextricably linked to the failed efforts to enact subsequent "commonsense gun control" measures.

The deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, saw 19 children and two adults murdered. It occurred nearly 10 years after Sandy Hook and was the deadliest of more than 900 gun violence incidents at schools since. There have been more than 3,500 mass shootings across the country in that same time frame, according to the Gun Violence Archive.


Former President Barack Obama tapped then-Vice President Biden to lead the government's efforts to pass some type of gun control reform in the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook.

"We won’t be able to stop every violent act," Obama conceded at the time. "But if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try."

Biden's White House team crafted more than 20 gun executive orders for Biden to sign just months after the Newtown shooting. He also spent most of early 2013 working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to craft a bill requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales. Despite the bipartisan compromise, that bill was voted down 54-46 in the Senate.

Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was one of six Democrats who voted no, while just two Republicans, John McCain of Arizona and Mark Kirk of Illinois, voted yes.

Biden reportedly watched the failed vote go down at the White House with former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who herself had survived being shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011, and claimed that "this is actually going to help you build a movement."

In the ensuing nine-plus years, increasingly partisan efforts to pass gun control legislation, including bills practically identical to the Manchin-Toomey proposal, have repeatedly failed. That included two additional background check bills, supported by the Biden administration, that again failed to pass the Senate in 2021.

Since entering the White House, Biden himself has signed a flurry of gun violence-focused executive orders. Some of those banned the sale of ghost guns, launched interagency task forces to try to crack down on illegal transfers of firearms in five of the nation's largest crime-ridden cities, expanded police budgets, and even stood up community mental health initiatives.

Furthermore, Biden has repeatedly called for new legislation requiring mandatory background checks for all firearm purchases and a reauthorization of his 1994 assault weapons ban.

"I spent my career as a senator and as vice president working to pass commonsense gun laws. We can’t and won’t prevent every tragedy, but we know they work and have a positive impact," he reiterated during nationally televised remarks the night of the Uvalde shooting. "When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled. The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?"

Biden's ban, included in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, outlawed AR-15s and other automatic firearms outright and banned high-capacity magazines and a variety of other firearms. He has claimed that after the ban expired, mass shootings rose by 300%, though those figures are widely debated. The total number of mass shootings occurring in the decade after the ban expired was virtually identical to the number that occurred while it was still law, but data suggest that the ban reduced total fatalities by 38% and non-life-threatening injuries by an additional 77% in those incidents.

Still, given the lack of legislative progress since Sandy Hook, gun control advocates are growing increasingly frustrated with Biden's hands-off, leave-it-to-Congress strategy and want him to begin aggressively using his bully pulpit on the issue.

"He can’t just be the ‘eulogizer in chief.’ He also needs to put the full force of his office into the legislative process. Otherwise, it will seem like he’s lost hope.” Peter Ambler, executive director for Giffords's gun safety group, told Politico. "I think he can have an impact if he and the whole White House swing into action."

"It’s been Biden offering platitudes without offering any solutions,” Guns Down America's Igor Volsky added. “Who came up with this strategy? It’s just bizarre."

The Community Justice Action Fund's executive director, Greg Jackson, on the other hand, defended Biden's strategy.


"While there’s a lot of frustration with this administration, and I think it’s very fair, this is the greatest champion we’ve had on addressing gun violence in history, in my opinion, because he’s taken a more holistic, comprehensive approach," he claimed. "It’s not just reactive to one moment to one shooting or to one media story. It’s really looking at this as a whole."