‘Enough’: Biden tells lawmakers to pass gun control laws

In emotional speech, US president says it’s time for lawmakers to enact tough laws – including a ban on assault weapons – to curb gun violence.

US president Joe Biden speaking on gun control
US President Joe Biden makes an impassioned plea for action on gun violence [Leah Millis/Reuters]

In an emotional speech broadcast live on national television, United States President Joe Biden has called on lawmakers to pass legislation to curb gun violence in the country, a week after 19 children were shot dead by a gunman in their school.

Biden proposed several laws, including a ban on assault weapons, which was allowed to lapse under a Republican administration in 2004. Other proposals included a limit on high capacity magazines, secure storage laws, “red flag” laws, universal background checks, and the removal of protection laws for gun manufacturers.

“It’s time to act,” Biden said from the White House. “For the children we have lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. It’s time to act.”

The impassioned speech, broadcast during primetime in the US, followed a series of mass shootings across the country in the past three weeks, in which men with guns have killed Black people in Buffalo, schoolchildren in Uvalde and doctors in Tulsa.

Peppering his speech with declarations of “enough”, Biden said too many places in the US had become “killing fields”, and urged Republicans in the Senate to back changes to legislation that would make the country safer for everyone.

Alluding to the mid-term elections later this year, he said gun control was a matter of “common sense” and stressed that the Second Amendment, which gun proponents use to curb regulation, was not absolute.

Jason Nichols, a social and political analyst, at the University of Maryland, told Al Jazeera that while he did not expect Republicans to commit to a ban on assault weapons, the November polls might encourage them to adopt some of Biden’s other proposals.

“Of course we have our kitchen table issues but the most fundamental thing is life and if we are not doing everything we can to protect life, I think the American people will turn on their politicians, particularly the Republican politicians who have been blocking this year after year,” he said. “I’m encouraged that that will motivate Republicans to make a move on this.”

While Democrats currently control the House of Representatives, the Senate is split with each party holding 50 seats. For any legislation to pass, and to avoid the filibuster, 10 Republican Senators would need to vote in favour of it.

In a statement in response to Biden’s speech, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful lobby group that provides financial support to some politicians, said the president’s proposals were not the kind of “functional measures and real solutions” that would reduce crime and help those with “dangerous behavioural health issues”.

“All that the President repeatedly proposes will only infringe on the rights of those law-abiding (people) who have never, and will never, commit a crime,” the NRA said. “This isn’t a real solution, it isn’t true leadership and it isn’t what America needs.”

Republicans and some Democrats have blocked tougher gun regulation even after horrific mass shootings such as the murder of 20 young children at a primary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012.

While that attack stunned the nation and initially appeared as if it might be the atrocity that would galvanise action on gun control, even watered down measures to expand federal background checks for those buying weapons failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

There was more success at the state level, with Connecticut expanding a ban on assault weapons, instituting universal background checks, and banning high-capacity magazines.

Source: Al Jazeera