Speaking from the White House Cross Hall, where dark lines of candles had been lit in the backdrop, Biden stepped up pressure on Congress to act after previous shootings failed to produce new laws. significant.
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept? Biden asked, demanding that Republicans in particular end their vote blockade on gun control.
In addition to reinstating the assault weapons ban, Biden urged Congress to expand background check requirements for gun purchases, create new rules for storing weapons safely, enact new “red flag” laws that would prevent the sale of guns to those with criminal records, repeal liability shields for gun manufacturers and provide more mental health services for students.
Most, if not all, of these items currently appear unlikely to be approved by the equally divided Senate, where a bipartisan group of senators is currently determining where action might be possible.
Still, Biden has sought to use the moment — with Americans rocked by a seemingly endless string of murders — to rally the nation behind a plan most Republicans oppose.
“My God, the fact that the majority of Republicans in the Senate don’t even want any of these proposals to be debated or put to a vote, I find unconscionable,” Biden said in his remarks, a rare evening address intended for reach the greatest number of viewers.
“We can no longer disappoint the American people,” he continued.
Fifty-six candles burned behind him to represent victims of gun violence in every US state and territory.
The remarks were Biden’s most comprehensive speech on guns since a massacre at a Texas elementary school last week. He said the recent spate of horrific mass shootings must spur the nation to take action to prevent further killings by enacting gun restrictions.
After meeting with families mourning their slain loved ones in Buffalo and Uvalde, Biden said the message from them was clear: “Do something.”
“Nothing was done,” Biden said. “This time it can’t be true. This time we actually have to do something.”
It was the second time Biden has delivered an emotional evening speech at the White House on the mass shootings, also speaking in the wake of the storming of Robb’s elementary school. Since then, however, Biden has only selectively entered the gun control debate, pausing before endorsing any specific legislative action to prevent further bloodshed.
He offered more specific calls on Thursday, including saying the age to buy assault weapons must be raised from 18 to 21 if lawmakers can’t agree on an outright ban on such weapons. fire.
“We need to at least raise the age to be able to buy one at 21,” the president said.
“For the children we’ve lost, the children we can save, for the nation we love, let’s hear the call and the cry. Meet the moment. Let’s finally do something.”
Both Biden and his advisers have suggested they have exhausted their options on executive action to fight guns, while continuing to explore avenues for unilateral action.
Speaking a day after consoling families in Texas, Biden expressed limited hope that some Republicans, like Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and one of his key allies, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, might be persuaded to support some type of new gun laws.
McConnell has deputized Cornyn to begin talks with Democrats on some type of legislation to prevent further mass shootings, though talks are still in their preliminary stages.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who attended a bipartisan gun safety meeting on Wednesday, said he and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were in talks about changes to the Red Flag laws and that there was still “important” work to be done.
The senators plan to strengthen state laws allowing authorities to remove guns from people deemed a risk, known as red flag laws.
Blumenthal called the conversation “productive and encouraging” and said the negotiators were “all talking several times a day.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will introduce legislation banning military-style assault weapons next week as the chamber prepares to tackle gun violence.
This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.