Biden urges US Congress to act on gun violence

US President Joe Biden speaks about the recent mass shootings and urges Congress to pass laws to combat gun violence at the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington DC, June 2, 2022.
(SAUL LOEB / AFP)

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to take action on gun violence in a prime-time address from the White House.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are negotiating gun reform measures but it's unclear how much talk would be turned into action

He urged Congress to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, or at least raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21. Other proposals included expanding background checks, passing "red flag" laws and repealing the liability shield for gun manufacturers and dealers.The remarks came after the United States was shaken by a spate of mass shootings over the past few weeks.

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Biden traveled to Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday to meet with families of the victims and survivors of a school shooting on May 24, in which the gunman, killed by responding officers on the scene, used an AR-15-style rifle, a popular range of semiautomatic weapons, to kill 19 children and two teachers.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are negotiating gun reform measures but it's unclear how much talk would be turned into action.

Also on Thursday, a committee in the House approved along the party line a package of gun control legislation, a response to the recent mass shootings, but US media consider it likely to die in the Senate, as The New York Times said, "fierce Republican opposition during the committee debate underscored the partisan animosity."

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Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, dismissed the package as partisan, CNN reported. "No one wants another tragedy. No one wants this to happen again. That's why it's regretful that Democrats have rushed to a markup today in what seems more like political theater than a real attempt at improving public safety or finding solutions," he said.

Republicans deem such measures, including restricting gun buyers' age and the sale of magazines, as unconstitutional and depriving Americans of the right to defend themselves. Representative Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina, said that "you are not going to bully your way into stripping Americans of fundamental rights," The New York Times reported.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democratic of Maryland, accused Republicans of "misleading the American public about the Second Amendment," according to CNN. "My colleagues are throwing up the Second Amendment as a smokescreen to protect their opposition to any reasonable gun safety regulation," he said.

In a recent survey of all 50 Republicans in the Senate by The New York Times, most Republicans who had responded either declined to take a position or signaled they would oppose the measures, worrying about infringing on the rights of gun owners.

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So far this year, the United States has seen at least 233 mass shootings with more than 18,000 deaths due to gun violence, according to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive. A mass shooting is defined as one in which four or more people were injured or killed,

The United States has more guns than any other nation in the world, and that number continues to grow each year.

There are estimated 400 million guns in the United States between police, the military and American civilians, and over 393 million of these guns are in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens, according to a 2018 report on global firearms holdings by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.