Biden calls for ban on assault weapons: ‘This time we must actually do something’


(WASHINGTON) — As mass shootings continue to rock the nation, President Joe Biden delivered prime-time remarks on guns Thursday evening from the White House, imploring the nation to “For God’s sake, do something.”

“This time we must actually do something,” he said, calling for a ban on assault weapons.

“We need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21, strengthen background checks, enact safe storage law, and red flag laws. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability, address the mental health crisis,” he said in an impassioned address.

The latest mass shooting on Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving four dead, follows a massacre of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, as well as an apparently racially-motivated attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, leaving 10 Black people dead.

“We spent hours with hundreds of family members who were broken, whose lives will never be the same,” Biden said. “They had one message for all of us. Do something. Just do something … After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done. This time that can’t be true.”

Biden taking the national spotlight on Thursday evening comes amid questions over why he has not yet lobbied lawmakers personally and more forcefully as they aim to find a compromise on gun control legislation.

Biden told reporters earlier this week he “will meet with the Congress on guns — I promise you,” but did not provide details on when such a meeting might take place. On Thursday, he once again made the case for legislative action.

“This isn’t about taking anyone’s rights. It’s about protecting children, ” he said. “It’s about protecting families, it’s about protecting whole communities, it’s about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store to a church without being shot and killed. According to new data just released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America. The number one killer. More than car accidents, more than cancer. Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined.”

“Think about that,” he said, adding, “How much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough, enough?”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed back Thursday against the notion that Biden hasn’t been involved in negotiations, arguing he’s been involved since taking office and repeating a sentiment from earlier this week that he “wants to give it some space” as the talks continue.

Biden’s making the speech Thursday, Jean-Pierre said, because he wants to make sure “that his voice is still out there and that the American people know that he’s fighting for them.”

Jean-Pierre also said the president is “encouraged” by what he’s seeing on Capitol Hill, even though Biden himself cast doubt that legislation will be passed, telling reporters he’s “not confident” as he recounted his first-hand experience in the Senate.

While serving as then-President Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden was tasked in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting to lead the administration’s effort to enact tougher gun control laws — but in the nearly decade since the nation mourned for Newtown, no action on gun control has passed at a federal level.

The last meaningful gun reform legislation passed on Capitol Hill was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 due to a “sunset” clause in the legislation. Similar legislation has failed for decades in the Senate due in large part to the filibuster rule, which requires 60 senators for a measure to advance toward a final vote. Though Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in Congress, they cannot push legislation through the Senate without the support of at least 10 Republicans.

The American public is widely supportive of universal background checks, which have already passed through the House’s Democratic majority. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in September 2019 found 89% support for universal background checks, including at least eight in 10 Republicans and conservatives.

Ahead of Biden’s speech, Vice President Kamala Harris offered brief remarks Thursday afternoon on the mass shooting in Tulsa and urged Congress to pass gun safety laws.

“No more excuses,” Harris said. “Thoughts and prayers are important, but not enough. We need Congress to act.”

As Biden prepared for his speech on Thursday, funerals were underway in Uvalde, where he visited families of victims.

He claimed earlier this week to have visited more aftermaths of mass shootings than any other American president.

In impassioned remarks from the White House last week after the Uvalde shooting, Biden expressed outrage at lawmakers who are blocking “common-sense” gun laws and rejected the argument often heard from Republicans that gun violence is a mental health issue.

“These kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” Biden said with outrage. “Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?”

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