Biden calls for ‘commonsense’ gun laws on Parkland anniversary

US president says gun law reforms should include mandatory background checks and ban on assault weapons.

Bouquets are placed at a memorial on campus on the first anniversary of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida [File: Joe Skipper/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden called for a reform of gun control laws in the United States on Sunday, the third anniversary of a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

In a statement, the president urged Congress “to enact commonsense gun law reforms”.

Biden said that includes requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and “eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets”.

“We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now,” he said.

The 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 students and staff and injured at least 15 others, prompting outrage around the country and fuelling another debate over gun control.

The incident gave rise to the nationwide March For Our Lives campaign, organised and led by the survivors of the mass shooting.

David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez of Parkland High School participate in a protest calling for stricter gun control on the first anniversary of the March For Our Lives at the US Capitol [File: Michael A McCoy/Reuters]

“Over these three years, the Parkland families have taught all of us something profound. Time and again, they have showed us how we can turn our grief into purpose – to march, organise, and build a strong, inclusive, and durable movement for change,” Biden said in his statement.

Repeated calls for stricter gun control laws in the US have failed to achieve results as gun lobby groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), continue to yield significant influence in Washington, DC.

Gun lobby organisations have made sizeable donations to US legislators from both leading parties for years, and proposals to enact stricter gun control laws have found little success in Congress.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group, there were 611 mass shootings in the US last year. The organisation defines a “mass shooting” as any shooting in which at least four people were killed or injured, excluding the attacker.

During his presidential campaign, Biden said one of his top priorities if elected would be to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed in 2005, which shields gun manufacturers from being held liable for shootings committed using their products.

Moreover, Biden said he would use his “executive authority” to ban the import of assault weapons.

In 1994, as a US senator, Biden helped pass legislation banning the manufacture of assault weapons for civilian use, but the law expired 10 years later.

Biden has also promised to enact universal background check legislation to disallow “people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases”.

Source: Al Jazeera