Speaking in the White House’s Cross Hall, with the long red-carpeted hallway framed by two rows of flickering candles, Biden said he was not calling for “taking up anyone’s guns.” He added that he was also not “defaming gun owners”. But he said the rights granted by the Second Amendment were not unlimited. He then set the limits he wanted.
Biden called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and, if such policies cannot be enacted, raising the age at which one can purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21 years old. He called for strengthening background checks, repealing the legal immunity enjoyed by gunmakers, and codifying a ban on so-called phantom guns. And he called for tackling what he saw as America’s “mental health crisis” while expanding “red flag” laws.
“Why in the name of God should an ordinary citizen be able to buy an assault weapon with 30-round magazines that allow mass shooters to fire hundreds of bullets in minutes?” Biden said at one point.
Until Thursday, the White House had kept a strategic distance from legislative negotiations spawned by back-to-back mass shootings, first in Buffalo, NY, then in Uvalde, Texas, and Wednesday in Tulsa, Okla. spoke about their staff’s phone calls with legislative leaders, but were careful to omit any mention of Biden’s possible involvement. They minimized the ability to take additional and meaningful executive action that would evade the need for congressional input.
And while the president retains the bullying pulpit as one of his few remaining tools, he and his aides have at times seemed reluctant to use it.
Biden made the remarks after traveling to Buffalo and mourning with the victim’s families there and in Texas. But his public statements largely consisted of broad calls to tackle gun violence, not admonitions to those who stand in the way or even specific legislative reforms he would like to see. His appearances since then have been low-key and brief.
That also changed on Thursday, as Biden specifically called out Senate Republicans for using the filibuster to prevent the legislation from being considered.
“The fact that the majority of Senate Republicans don’t even want any of these proposals to be debated or put to a vote, I find unconscionable,” he proclaimed. It was a line his Democratic critics were eager to hear, though it likely won’t change realities in the Senate, where Republicans have shown no appetite to tackle sweeping proposals that they say them, would violate the firearms protected by the Constitution. ownership.
For presidents, prime time addresses are usually reserved for sober affairs. They mark national tragedies or shared and difficult times for the nation. When they celebrate triumphs, it is often in the form of a breakthrough in a long and drawn-out struggle: the murder of Osama bin Laden, for example, or the bombing of a Syrian airfield in response to chemical attacks in this country.
Biden’s previous two prime-time addresses have fit that mold. He spoke on the first anniversary of the country’s closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, detailing the progress made in this fight and the sacrifices that have come with it. Later, he made remarks to the public on the verdict of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted on all counts in the murder of George Floyd.
The shootings in Buffalo on May 14 and Texas on May 24 mark another kind of inflection point for this president, though he knows it from the past. Biden played a vital role in driving gun policy reforms in the 1990s — the last time Congress took significant action to limit access to guns. He also served as the Obama administration’s right-hand man as vice president when it embarked on pursuing its own reforms after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Connecticut.
But this latest effort ended in partial failure: a series of executive actions unaccompanied by legislative reforms, which failed to eliminate the Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Biden on Thursday referenced this tragedy and others, including several major school shootings in recent years, to lament the lack of action and demand that history not repeat itself once again. .
“My fellow Americans, enough is enough,” he said. “Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act. For the children we have lost, the children we can save, for the nation we love, let us hear the call and the cry Let’s meet the moment. Let’s finally do something.