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Biden urges Congress to pass gun control bill

The president called on lawmakers to reach a deal on gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings.

(CN) — In an emotional prime-time address Thursday night, President Joe Biden pleaded lawmakers to take action on gun control and revive a decades-old ban on assault-style guns in the wake of a series of mass shootings that have rattled the nation.

“After Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done. This time that can’t be true. We must actually do something. The issue we face is one of conscience and common sense,” Biden said.

One day before Biden’s speech, a gunman attacked a Tulsa medical office, killing four people. On May 24, an 18-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the deadliest mass shooting so far this year.

Ten days before the attack in Uvalde, an 18-year-old motivated by white supremacist beliefs shot and killed 10 people, injuring three others, at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York.

Since the start of his presidency, Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to enforce stricter gun laws, and his Thursday night speech expressed a sense of frustration from a president who visited sites of mass shootings twice in the past month, including a trip to Uvalde earlier this week.

“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 becoming killing fields, battlefields here in America,” Biden said.

Media gather as Tulsa police and firefighters respond to a shooting at the Natalie Medical Building in Tulsa, Okla., on June 1, 2022. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

There have been 234 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, with calls for gun control reaching a fever pitch in recent weeks.

Biden noted that in 2020, guns became the leading cause of death among children and teens, citing research by the New England Journal of Medicine that analyzed decades of CDC data.

“For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Biden asked.

Telling the story of an 11-year-old girl who survived the Uvalde shooting by pretending to be dead, Biden grew solemn.

“Imagine being that little girl, that brave little girl in Uvalde who smeared blood off her friend’s body onto her own face, to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive,” Biden said. “Imagine, imagine what it’d be like for her to walk down the hallway of any school again. Imagine what it’s like for children who experience this kind of trauma every day in school, on the streets in communities all across America.”

Urging Congress to revive the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, Biden also expressed support for other reforms including banning high-capacity magazines, repealing legal immunity for gun manufacturers, raising the legal age to buy assault weapons and passing national “red flag” laws, which would allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people determined to legally be a threat to themselves or others.

“I respect the culture and tradition and concerns of lawful gun owners. At the same time, the Second Amendment — like all other rights — is not absolute,” Biden said, noting that weapons such as machine guns have been banned and regulated for almost a century.

While the president has used executive power to enforce smaller scale firearms reforms, appointing a nominee to run the nation’s federal firearms regulating agency and establishing regulations requiring serial numbers and background checks for so-called ghost guns — weapons that consumers can assemble at home — more sweeping action has to come through Congress.

An all-out ban on assault style weapons is unlikely to gain momentum in the partisan 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need all party members and 10 Republicans on board for legislation to overcome the filibuster. Nonetheless, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to hold a hearing on such a ban.

In a nine-and-a-half-hour marathon hearing Thursday, House lawmakers debated a series of gun control proposals that Biden backed in his speech, including policies that would raise the purchasing age for some semi-automatic weapons to 21 years old and ban certain high-capacity gun magazines from being sold.

The House will vote on the package of proposals next week and Senate lawmakers are working on bipartisan legislation, including a version of a red flag law that would incentivize states to pass local gun control laws.

“It’s time for the Senate to do something. I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats, Republicans, trying to find a way,” Biden said. “But my God, the fact the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote I find unconscionable.”

Call on Congress to act, Biden painted the need for gun control legislation as a moral imperative.

“It’s time to act for the children we’ve lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. Let’s finally do something,” Biden said.

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