Biden calls for tougher gun laws: ‘How much more carnage?’


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden impassionedly called on Congress to take action against gun violence in an address to the nation Thursday night, calling on lawmakers to reinstate a ban on the sale of assault weapons and magazines. high capacity after a series of mass shootings. If lawmakers fail to act, he warned, voters should use their “outrage” to make gun violence a central issue in November’s midterm elections.

Speaking at the White House, Biden acknowledged stiff political headwinds as he sought to boost pressure on Congress to pass stricter gun limits after such efforts failed after previous attacks. He said that if Congress doesn’t accept all of his proposals, it should at least agree on other measures, such as limiting access to firearms for people with mental health conditions or raising the age to buy assault weapons from 18. to 21 years.

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden said after last week’s shootings by an 18-year-old gunman. who murdered 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and another attack on Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a The gunman shot and killed four people and himself at a doctor’s office.

And those came after the May 14 assault on Buffalo, New York, where an 18-year-old white male wearing military gear and broadcasting live with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood, killing 10 people and wounding three others in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism.”

“This time we have to take the time to do something,” Biden said, calling the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to pass the legislation.

“I know how difficult it is, but I will never give up and if Congress fails, I believe that this time the majority of the American people will not give up either,” he added. “I think most of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue the center of your vote.”

All major broadcast networks broke away from regular programming to air Biden’s remarks, prior to the start of primetime shows.

Biden has used national addresses in the past to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. But the president has used those addresses sparingly during his nearly 18 months in office, especially during the evening hours.

Earlier Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the Oklahoma shooting, saying, “All of us hold the people of Tulsa close to our hearts, but we also reaffirm our commitment to passing common sense gun safety laws.”

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

Before marking Memorial Day on Monday, Biden told reporters at the White House there may be some bipartisan support for tightening restrictions on the type of high-powered weapons used by the gunman in Uvalde. But he also pointed out that while he had taken some steps through executive action, he did not have the power as president to “ban a gun.”

He also said that “things have gotten so bad that everyone is becoming more rational, at least that’s my hope,” adding, “There is an understanding on the part of rational Republicans” who realize that “we can’t keep repeating the same thing”.

Visiting Uvalde on Sunday, Biden mourned privately for more than three hours with distraught families. Before the chants of “do something” when he left a religious service, the president promised: “We will do it.”

His Thursday night speech coincided with bipartisan talks intensifying among a core group of senators discussing modest changes to gun policy. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said the group is “progressing rapidly,” and Biden has spoken with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, one of those leading her party’s efforts on the issue.

Democrats hope Biden’s comments will encourage bipartisan talks in the Senate and put pressure on Republicans to reach a deal. Jean-Pierre said Biden is “encouraged” by the congressional negotiations, but the president wants to give lawmakers “some space” to keep talking.

Private discussions in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, are not expected to produce the kind of radical reforms being considered by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which has passed sweeping legislation on background checks and it will then move to an Assault Weapons Ban.

But even a House package debated Thursday that is less sweeping but includes a provision that raises the age requirement to buy semi-automatic firearms to 21, faces slim chances in the Senate.

Instead, bipartisan senators are likely to introduce a more incremental package that would increase federal funding to support state gun safety efforts, with incentives to beef up school safety and mental health resources. The package may also encourage “red flag laws” to keep firearms away from those who would do harm.

Any major action remains a long shot. While the Senate passed a modest measure to encourage compliance with background checks after a mass shooting at a church in Texas in 2017 and one in Parkland, Florida, the following year, no major legislation passed the House after the devastating Massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. in 2012.


Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed.

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