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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 February 2021

Biden calls for reform on US gun laws

US president addresses Congress on the third anniversary of the Parkland school shooting massacre

US President Joe Biden says his administration will take action to protect schoolchildren from mass shootings.  AP
US President Joe Biden says his administration will take action to protect schoolchildren from mass shootings.  AP

US President Joe Biden called on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, three years after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

"This administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call," Mr Biden said on Sunday, marking the Valentine's Day shooting in 2018 that left 17 people dead and brought attention back to the country's lax gun laws.

"We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer."

Mr Biden said he wanted Congress to pass laws that would require background checks on all gun sales and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time, was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and fired between 100 and 150 rounds in a rampage that killed 14 children and three adult staff at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Mr Biden said Congress must also eliminate immunity for gun manufacturers who "knowingly put weapons of war on our streets".

Cruz was able to buy the assault rifle legally, despite his known mental health problems.

Even in a country that has grown inured to mass shootings and gun violence, the Florida attack sparked outrage across the US and prompted new demands for firearms control.

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise until sunset across the state to honour those who died in the shooting.

But with Donald Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling the Senate at the time, legislation approved by the Democrats in the House of Representatives went nowhere.

On Sunday, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would try again to bring in the legislation.

"We will enact these and other life-saving bills and deliver the progress that the Parkland community and the American people deserve and demand," she said.

Despite polls finding most Americans to be in favour of some sort of gun law reforms, successive US administrations have been powerless to pass legislation.

"The time to act is now," Mr Biden said.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was 14 when she was killed in the shooting, addressed Mr Biden in a tweet on Sunday.

“Mr President, thank you for remembering the loved ones taken from us three years ago,” he said.

“Alaina loved this country and the freedoms it guarantees. Common sense tells us that honouring her life does not require infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Updated: February 16, 2021 10:36 PM

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