Biden presses for more gun control after mass shootings: ‘How much more carnage are we willing to accept?’
In remarks from a candle-lined Cross Hall at the White House, Biden recalled his visits to the memorials of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. Fifty-six candles burned behind him to represent victims of gun violence in all US states and territories.
“Standing there in that small town like so many other communities across America, I couldn’t help but think there are too many other schools, too many other everyday places, that have become killing fields — battlefields — here in America,” Biden said of his visit to Uvalde.
The remarks amount to Biden’s most fulsome speech about guns since a massacre at a Texas elementary school last week.
He said the recent spate of horrific mass shootings must impel the nation to take action to prevent further massacres by passing gun restrictions.
After meeting families mourning their slain loved ones in Buffalo and Uvalde, Biden said the message from them was clear: “Do something.”
“Nothing has been done,” Biden said. “This time that can’t be true. This time we must actually do something.”
He issued a call to reinstate a ban on assault weapons that he said had helped prevent horrific murders but expired in 2004.
‘We should reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Biden said, seeking a new prohibition on the types of high-capacity weapons used in the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings.
Biden said that in the 10 years the law was in place, mass shootings decreased.
“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004, those weapons were allowed to be sold again. Mass shootings tripled,” the President said.
He said the weapons inflicted gruesome damage on their victims, particularly children, and he used very vivid language to describe the shootings and their aftermath.
“The damage is so devastating, and in Uvalde, parents had to do DNA swabs to identify the remains of their children, 9 and 10 years old,” he said.
In the little more than a week since the Uvalde shooting, a string of additional mass shootings have unfolded in states across the country, including in Tulsa on Wednesday. That shooting left five dead, including the gunman.
It’s the second time that Biden has delivered an emotional evening speech at the White House on mass shootings, also speaking in the wake of the Robb Elementary School assault. Since then, however, Biden has only selectively waded into the debate over gun control, stopping short of endorsing any specific legislative action to prevent further carnage.
However, he broke with that trend on Thursday. Biden said the age to purchase assault weapons must be raised from 18 to 21 if lawmakers cannot agree on an outright ban on those firearms.
“We must at least raise the age to be able to purchase one to 21,” the President said.
He said he was cognizant of criticism that some 18- to 21-year-olds serve in the military and handle those weapons as part of their duties, noting those individuals receive “training and supervision by the best-trained experts in the world.”
“Don’t tell me raising the age won’t make a difference,” Biden said.
He added, “For the children we’ve lost, the children we can save, for the nation we love, let’s hear the call and the cry. Let’s meet the moment. Let us finally do something.”
On Wednesday, the President had expressed scant optimism Congress would agree on new gun control legislation, even as a bipartisan group of senators meets to weigh options.
“I served in Congress for 36 years. I’m never confident, totally,” Biden said when asked whether he believed lawmakers would agree on new gun laws.
“It depends. So I don’t know,” Biden said. “I’ve not been in the negotiations as they’re going on right now.”
The lukewarm response was an indication Biden is wary of associating too closely with the nascent efforts on Capitol Hill to arrive at a gun control compromise.
While Biden said Tuesday he would speak with lawmakers about guns, the White House later said he would only become involved when the time is right.
Both Biden and his advisers have suggested they have exhausted their options on executive action to address guns, though continue to explore avenues for unilateral action.
“There’s the Constitution. I can’t dictate this stuff. I can do the things I’ve done, and any executive action I can take I’ll continue to take. But I can’t outlaw a weapon, I can’t change the background checks. I can’t do that,” he said Monday.
Speaking a day after consoling families in Texas, Biden expressed limited hope that certain Republicans, like Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and one of his top allies, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, could be convinced to support some type of new gun laws.
“I don’t know, I think there’s a realization on the part of rational Republicans, and I consider McConnell a rational Republican, Cornyn as well. There’s a recognition on their part they can’t continue like this,” he said.
McConnell has deputized Cornyn to begin talks with Democrats on some type of legislation to prevent further mass shootings, though the discussions are still in their preliminary stages.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who participated in a Wednesday bipartisan meeting on gun safety, said he and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham are in talks over changes to red flag laws and there still is “significant” work to do.
Senators are looking at strengthening state laws allowing authorities to take away weapons from individuals deemed a risk, known as red flag laws.
Blumenthal called the conversation “productive and encouraging” and said negotiators are “all speaking multiple times a day.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would bring legislation to ban military-style assault weapons to the floor next week as the chamber moves to address gun violence.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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