Washington — President Biden on Thursday declared it is time to put an end to the “carnage” and loss of American lives in mass shootings across the country as he pleaded with Congress to pass what he said are “rational, common-sense measures” to curb gun violence.
“How much carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough? Enough,” Mr. Biden said in a primetime address on gun violence delivered from the White House.
The remarks from the president come as the nation grapples with the aftermath of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. In a symbol of how gun violence is an issue affecting the entire nation, 56 candles representing the 50 states and six US territories lined Mr. Biden’s walk to the podium in the Cross Hall, according to the White House.
“After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done,” the president said. “This time that can’t be true. This time, we must actually do something.”
As he has stressed before, Mr. Biden called for the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to be reinstated — nearly 20 years after it expired — but said if that cannot be done, then the minimum purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons should be raised from 18 to 21 years old. He also called for a strengthening of background checks, for safe-storage and red-flag laws to be enacted, and for the immunity that shields gun manufacturers from liability to be repealed.
The president also called for mental health resources to be bolstered, saying there is a “serious youth mental health crisis in this county.”
Mr. Biden was adamant “this isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights,” rebutting some who have claimed gun control measures will infringe upon Second Amendment rights, and stressed there have long been restrictions on the weapons Americans can own.
“It’s about protecting children,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s about protecting families. It’s about protecting whole communities. It’s about protecting our freedom to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church without being shot and killed.”
After outlining his plan to address gun violence, Mr. Biden asked “What will the Congress do?
The massacre in Uvalde prompted swift action from the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee, which met Thursday and, after a marathon hearing, advanced a package of bills called the “Protecting Our Kids Act” that would harden the nation’s gun laws. Action from the full House could come as soon as next week, although it faces steep odds to be passed in the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed for legislation to be passed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also told her Democratic colleagues in a letter Thursday that after returning from its two-week recess, the lower chamber will vote next week on legislation that would implement a nationwide extreme-risk law. The House will also hold a hearing on an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, she said.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has been meeting to discuss common ground on gun legislation. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, confirmed Monday that they are making progress as they hammer out details of revised red flag legislation that they both hope can win sufficient GOP support to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
Mr. Biden said he supports the bipartisan efforts in the Senate to change the nation’s gun laws, but placed the onus on the upper chamber to take action.
“This time, we have to take the time to do something, and this time, it’s time for the Senate to do something,” he said, adding, “My God, the fact that a 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. We can’t fail the American people again.”