WASHINGTON — President Biden unexpectedly ended a speech on gun control Friday by saying, “God save the Queen, man” — after warning his audience they could be liable for the actions of people who steal their cars.
The 80-year-old president’s signoff confounded listeners, including journalists in the room at the University of Hartford’s campus in Connecticut.
“Several of you have asked me why he might have said that,” Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News wrote in a pool report describing the moment.
“I have no idea. Other poolers likewise have no idea.”
Later Friday, deputy White House press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters that Biden “was commenting to someone in the crowd,” without further clarification.
“God Save the Queen” was the name of the British national anthem under Queen Elizabeth II, as well as a customary nationalistic statement during her 70-year reign. She died in September and was succeeded by her son, Charles III, reverting the anthem and royalist motto to “God Save the King.”
The confusing remark recalled Biden’s inquiry “Where’s Jackie?” last September as he searched for the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) despite publicly mourning her death and even calling her family to offer his condolences a month prior.
When reporters raised questions about Biden’s mental acuity after that gaffe, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not concede the president misspoke and said Biden was looking for the dead congresswoman because she was “top of mind.”
Biden’s speech Friday focused on his call for new laws to ban AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines and to make gun owners liable for the unsafe storage of their weapons.
“If any one of you drove up to the parking lot here today, got out of your car, left a key in your car and a kid comes along — 13-14 years old — gets in your car, takes it on a joyride and kills someone — guess what? You’re liable,” Biden said.
“Why should that not be the case if you don’t lock your weapon?”
On the contrary, the insurance-focused Claims Journal says, “The majority common law rule among the 50 states is that the owner of a stolen vehicle will not be held liable for damages when the vehicle is stolen and then involved in an accident that causes injury or property damage.”
The journal notes, however, that some states and cities have laws “that prohibits an owner from leaving keys in an unlocked vehicle, or otherwise holds the owner liable [and] the liability of the owner will usually depends on the facts of the case.”
A chart of state laws and case law by the law firm Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer identifies Hawaii, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, as jurisdictions where car owners face potential civil liability for the actions of thieves if they leave their keys in the car.
Courts in other states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, have found that the owner can be held liable if the keys being left in the car resulted in a foreseeable theft due to factors such as other recent car thefts in the area.
Biden’s monarchical sign-off followed a series of attempts at humor, including referring to his age as “a little under 103” and “110.”
As he neared the end of his speech, the president asked the crowd if the weather forecast called for rain — and said he could stay for photos if not.
“They tell me there’s a storm coming in. Is that right? Is that still the deal?” Biden asked, as the crowd shouted in reply, “no.”