President Joe Biden again called on federal lawmakers to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, his latest plea in recent weeks as the US has experienced a steady and shocking spate of gun violence.
"Gun violence has become an epidemic in America," Biden said during his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night.
He also called on Congress to close the “boyfriend” loophole "to keep guns out of the hands of abusers," saying that more than 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner each month. "Let's pass it and save some lives," he said.
The president's comments came amid a wave of high-profile mass shootings across the US in the past six weeks. On March 16, eight people — six of them Asian women — were fatally shot at three Atlanta-area spas. Less than a week later on March 22, 10 people were killed in a Colorado grocery store. Since then, four people — including a 9-year-old boy — were killed at a business complex in Orange, California; a former NFL player killed six people, including himself, at the home of his doctor; three members of a family in Brooklyn and four members of a family in a Dallas suburb were killed by relatives who then killed themselves; and one died and five were injured at a custom cabinet business in Bryan, Texas.
Earlier this month, the president announced a series of executive actions on gun control, including cracking down on untraceable "ghost guns," and funding anti-gun violence programs and limiting the availability of stabilizing braces. But, as he acknowledged then and again Wednesday in his address, there's only so much he can do on his own.
"It’s time for Congress to act as well," Biden said, as he implored Senate Republicans to work with their Democratic colleagues on reforms.
"Don’t tell me it can’t be done," he added. "We did it before and it worked."
In 1994, then-president Bill Clinton signed into law a 10-year ban on certain semiautomatic firearms and large-capacity magazines. When the ban expired, Congress failed to renew it. Other efforts to pass gun control measures have largely fallen short as Republicans in both the House and Senate have opposed them.
Back in August 2019, then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said that strengthening background checks and red flag laws would be “front and center” of lawmakers' agenda following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Since Biden took office, McConnell has said he is “open to discussion” on gun control measures, yet has opposed two recent bills that would have expanded background checks and extended the time the FBI has to check gun buyers that are flagged.
"This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue," Biden said. "It’s an American issue."