Joe Biden calls for assault weapons ban in rare primetime national speech

US president demands Congress to take action in address on gun violence

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US President Joe Biden on Thursday evening addressed the nation on the gun violence crisis, calling for Congress to pass tighter laws despite a political stalemate in Washington.

“This isn't about taking anyone's rights. It's about protecting children, protecting families,” he said.

“It's about protecting whole communities. It's about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church.”

Mr Biden called for US Congress to pass a national assault weapons ban, a law that was once in place from 1994, though it expired in 2004.

He added if the ban could not be reinstated, the legal purchase age should be raised from 18 to 21.

The president also called for limiting high-capacity magazines, expanding background checks and instituting “red flag laws” that would bar those who pose a danger to others from gun ownership.

“Let's meet the moment. Let us finally do something,” he said.

Mr Biden's speech came 24 hours after three mass shootings took place in three different states: a gunman killed four people at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while several others were injured in shootings in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania.

At least a dozen mass shootings took place over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, The Washington Post reported.

Last month, a school shooting at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two adults while a racially motivated attack killed 10 black people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

“I couldn't help but think there are too many other schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields [and] battlefields here in America,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden visited Uvalde to meet mourning families and survivors as well as first responders on Monday. He and Vice President Kamala Harris also visited Buffalo on separate trips in the past two weeks.

Mr Biden has long asserted that legislative action on gun control should be handled in Congress and not entirely by presidential executive orders.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she will bring a “Protecting Our Kids Act” gun package forward for a full vote next week and it is likely to pass the Democratic majority body despite Republican criticism.

But it is likely to face challenges in passing the 50-50 politically divided Senate, though a bipartisan group of senators is working on a separate firearms bill.

“I'll never give up if Congress fails,” Mr Biden said. “I believe this time a majority of American people won't give up either.”

The US ranks eighth among 64 high-income countries and territories in deaths by firearms, data compiled by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show.

But the US ranks first in gun homicides among wealthier countries with 10 million or more people — 4.12 deaths per 100,000 people, a stark difference compared to the rate of 1.82 in Chile and 0.5 in Canada.

The nation's relationship with guns is a long one, with the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and the well-funded gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, has staunchly fought against gun control.

Updated: June 03, 2022, 4:36 AM
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