Biden says US is at ‘tipping point’ on gun control: ‘We will ban assault weapons in this country’

Mr Biden has called for a renewed ban on assault weapons but such a measure is unlikely to be enacted by Congress

Andrew Feinberg
Saturday 17 June 2023 08:04 BST
Biden says US needs 'new Congress' if gun laws don't change

Despite the lack of sufficient support in Congress to pass a new assault weapons ban, President Joe Biden on Friday said the US has “reached a tipping point” in the fight to strengthen America’s gun laws, due to the activism of the gun violence prevention movement that has gathered increasing strength in recent years.

Mr Biden, who was delivering remarks at the National Safer Communities Summit in Hartford, Connecticut, at the invitation of Senator Chris Murphy and a coalition of gun safety groups including Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Giffords, recounted some of the more than 20 executive actions his administration has taken to stem the tide of mass shootings since he took office. He said those politicians who claim to be concerned about crime should realise that crime can’t be tackled without dealing with gun violence.

“It’s a simple proposition,” he said.

The president also lamented how since 2020, firearms have been the leading cause of death for children in the United States — more than automobile accidents or cancer.

He recalled how the assault weapons ban he wrote into the 1994 crime bill enacted under then-president Bill Clinton cut mass shootings “significantly” only to see their number triple when Mr Clinton’s successor, George W Bush, allowed the ban to expire with the aid of a Republican Congress, allowing military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines to “come back into vogue”.

Mr Biden also called for a repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which immunises gun manufacturers from lawsuits filed by gun violence victims, and for the enactment of universal background checks before anyone can purchase high-powered rifles, many of which are modelled off of those issued to American soldiers, as well as safe storage requirements for such weapons.

“The United States of America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world [and] provides … service members with the most lethal weapons on Earth. We also require them to receive significant training before they’re allowed to use them. We require extensive background checks and mental health assessment that before they can … use them [and] require them to lock them up or store the weapon responsibly,” he said.

“Every gun owner should be required to have the same requirements held to him or her,” he added.

The president also hailed governors who have taken action to strengthen state gun laws, including Connecticut’s Ned Lamont, who recently signed more than 12 separate bills to strengthen his state’s firearm regulations, and praised state governments in Illinois and Washington for passing assault weapon and ghost gun bans, as well as the 21 states that have enacted so-called “red flag” laws to allow courts to temporarily disarm people who are determined to pose a risk to the community by a judge.

Though chances of a federal assault weapons ban making it to his desk are slim to none given the composition of Congress, Mr Biden promised the gun safety advocates that he will “never stop fighting”.

“We will ban assault weapons in this country … we will hold gun makers liable, we will beat the gun industry,” he said.

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