U.S. President Joe Biden, in a White House address Thursday night, will implore Congress to approve “common-sense laws” to attempt to curb the recent spate of mass shooting deaths that have shocked many Americans.
The White House said Biden would call for the new restrictions “to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is taking lives every day.”
It was not clear whether Biden would advocate for specific restrictions he favors, such as universal background checks for gun buyers or a ban on the sale of the rapid-fire, high-powered weapons that have been used in recent mass shootings.
Neither element is likely to win approval in the politically divided Congress, where lawmakers for years have been at odds over gun legislation.
But some lawmakers are attempting to craft more limited restrictions in the aftermath of the three mass shootings within the past month: 10 Black people gunned down in a racist attack at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store; 21 students and teachers shot to death in their classroom at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school; and four more killed at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, medical facility.
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday debated a bill it said was an emergency response to the mass shootings. It would raise the purchase age for an assault weapon from 18 to 21 and attempt to curb the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines and “ghost guns” without identification numbers. The measure could pass the Democratic-controlled House as early as next week but is not expected to advance in the Senate, which is divided equally, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
Mass shootings every week
In the United States this year, there have been 232 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which four or more people, not including the shooter, have been injured or killed. Not a single week has passed without at least four mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group.
Some lawmakers have called for a significant boost in school security measures. Others want rules allowing law enforcement authorities to confiscate guns for a year or so after people threaten to harm others or exhibit mental instability — so-called “red flag” laws.
Congress has long been divided on the passage of new laws to control the sale of guns. Biden and Democrats mostly support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, such as the 10-year U.S. prohibition that ended in 2004, and they have called for more background checks of gun buyers before sales are completed.
Republicans, on the other hand, have condemned mass shooting violence but have regularly blocked gun control legislation. For the most part, Republicans say the proposed restrictions that Democrats favor would impinge on the freedom of law-abiding citizens and are at odds with the right of Americans to own guns that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Hours after the Texas elementary school rampage, Biden spoke to the nation about gun violence.
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden said. “When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
Vice President Kamala Harris last weekend told reporters that Congress should pass a ban on assault weapons.
“We know what works on this,” she said. “It includes, ‘Let’s have an assault weapons ban.’ You know what an assault weapon is? You know how an assault weapon was designed? It was designed for a specific purpose: to kill a lot of human beings quickly. An assault weapon is a weapon of war with no place, no place in a civil society.”