US is 'awash in weapons of war', Joe Biden says

President celebrates gun-control bill but insists more must be done

US President Joe Biden talks with Garnell Whitfield, Jr, son of the oldest Buffalo massacre victim Ruth Whitfield, during a White House event celebrating the passage of a gun control bill. EPA
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US President Joe Biden on Monday heralded the passage of the first gun-control bill passed by Congress in decades, but bemoaned that "we're living in a country awash in weapons of war".

The new law includes provisions to help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, and cracks down on gun sales to buyers convicted of domestic violence.

Mr Biden said the new legislation did not go far enough.

"This has taken too long, with too much of a trail of bloodshed and carnage," he said.

"The past many years, across our schools, places of worship, workplaces, stores, music festivals, nightclubs and so many other everyday places, they have turned into killing fields."

Monday's marking of the bill comes after recent mass shootings killed 21 at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, 10 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and seven at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois.

“We will not save every life from the epidemic of gun violence," Mr Biden said. "But if this law had been in place years ago, even this last year, lives would have been saved."

As he spoke, Mr Biden was heckled by Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

He paused his speech to ask Mr Oliver to sit down, saying “Let him talk, let him talk", before Mr Oliver was escorted out.

Mr Biden pledged to restore a ban on assault rifles that existed from 1994 to 2004.

After it was lifted, millions of the high-powered, semi-automatic weapons were sold across the country and guns such as the AR-15 have been used repeatedly in mass shootings.

"Assault weapons need to be banned. They were banned," Mr Biden said. "I'm determined to ban these weapons again, and high-capacity magazines."

Mr Biden, who said owned four shotguns, called for Congress to pass legislation that would require gun owners to lock up their guns in their homes.

"If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it and keep it under lock and key," he said.

Mr Biden said he supported the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but pointed out that gun violence has become the leading cause of death of children in the US.

"Yes, there's a right to bear arms. But we all have a right to live freely, without fear for our lives," he said.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: July 11, 2022, 8:36 PM