Following a series of deadly attacks with firearms, U.S. President Joe Biden has called for tougher gun laws and a ban on assault rifles. "Enough, enough, enough. This time we really have to make a change," Biden said Thursday night during an emotional speech at the White House in Washington. "We can't let the American people down again."
The Democrat called it "unconscionable" that Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked any tightening of regulations. Ahead of the November congressional elections, he called on Americans to "put this issue at the center of their voting choices." Biden said that should a ban on assault rifles fail to pass in Congress, the minimum age for purchasing these weapons should be raised from 18 to 21.
He also called for prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines. Checks on gun buyers would have to be stepped up. Laws to safely store guns and protect against potentially dangerous gun owners would have to be enacted.
In addition to stricter gun laws, the president also called for the repeal of liability protections that shield gun manufacturers from being sued for violent acts committed by people who carry their weapons. "It's time to act. For the children we've lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love," Biden said. "This is not about taking anyone's guns away," the president stressed. "I respect the culture, the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners."
However, he said, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, like all rights, is not absolute. "In the last two decades, more school-age children have died by firearms than on-duty police officers and active-duty soldiers combined. Think about that."
Behind Biden, 56 candles burned to represent victims of gun violence in all 56 U.S. states and territories combined, according to the White House. The rampage at an elementary school in Texas last week in particular has once again fueled the debate about tightening gun laws in the United States.
The U.S. president had already called on Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban and pass measures. A bipartisan group of senators is working right now to draft a tighter bill. Previous efforts of that nature, however, had failed. Many Republicans have for years opposed stricter regulations, such as a ban on assault rifles.
As the White House explains, the president wants Congress to pass a bill because it would have a more lasting effect than any executive order he issues. Democrats have enough votes to pass the bill in the House, but have little chance in the Senate, which is split between Democrats and Republicans with 50 seats each. To pass, a bill needs 60 votes within the Senate, meaning any bill would need bipartisan support. According to the White House, Biden's speech was aimed at putting further pressure on lawmakers and keeping the issue present in the minds of voters.
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