WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — As the nation reels in the wake of a series of tragic mass shootings, President Joe Biden on Thursday called for action from lawmakers to combat gun violence.
Speaking at the White House, the president urged Congress to restore a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. Biden said that if Congress refuses his ideas, they must find other solutions, such as raising the age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21 and limiting access to guns for those struggling with mental health issues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biden said, reports that guns are now the number one killer of children in the United States. The president says the agency also states that more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined.
“For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough?” Biden questioned.
As debate over federal gun legislation divides the nation, a renewed call for tougher gun laws has permeated Washington following mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed; Buffalo, New York, where 10 people died at a supermarket in a primarily Black area; and most recently, Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a man who blamed his surgeon for ongoing pain opened fire at a hospital, killing the surgeon and three other people before fatally shooting himself.
“This time we have to take the time to do something,” Biden said, calling out the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to pass legislation supported by Democrats.
“I know how hard it is, but I’ll never give up and if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up, either,” he added. “I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.”
When Biden visited the shattered community of Uvalde on Sunday, he was met with chants of “do something” as he departed a church service, Biden pledged: “We will.” He also mentioned his visit to Buffalo following the mass shooting at a grocery store.
“At both places, we spent hours. Hundreds of family members who were broken, whose lives will never be the same, they had one message for all of us: Do something, just do something, for God’s sake, do something,” Biden said during his remarks Thursday night.
Democrats first attempted to respond to the mass shootings with a domestic terrorism bill in the Senate last week that would have opened debate on difficult questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety. The bill was blocked.
The House now is swiftly working to put its stamp on gun legislation.
Biden said he does not want to take away guns from responsible owners.
“I want to be very clear. This is not about taking away anyone’s guns. It’s not about vilifying gun owners. In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave,” Biden said. “I respect the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners. At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute.
“This isn’t about taking anyone’s rights. It’s about protecting children. It’s about protecting families. It’s about protecting whole communities. It’s about protecting our freedom to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church, without being shot and killed.”
Framework of gun reform bill up for discussion
The Democratic legislation by the House, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was quickly added to the legislative docket.
But partisan positions were clear at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the legislation, which initially aimed to raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.
The bill also would make it a federal offense to import, manufacture or possess large-capacity magazines and would create a grant program to buy back such magazines.
The measure passed the House Judiciary Committee and a vote by the full House could come as early as next week.
The legislation builds on the Biden administration’s executive action banning fast-action “bump-stock” devices and “ghost guns.”
Gun violence surges to ‘crisis’ level
However, with Republicans nearly all in opposition, the House action will mostly be symbolic, merely putting lawmakers on record about gun control ahead of this year’s elections.
The Senate is taking a different course, with a bipartisan group striving toward a compromise on gun safety legislation that can win enough GOP support to become law.
Any legislative response to the shootings will have to get through the evenly divided Senate, where support from at least 10 Republicans would be needed to advance the measure to a final vote.
A group of senators has been working privately this week in hopes of finding a consensus.
No major gun legislation has passed the Senate in years — even after the devastating massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The Senate did, however, approve a modest measure to encourage compliance with background checks after a church shooting in Texas and the Parkland school shooting in Florida.
The president is also calling for national “red flag” laws, so that a parent, teacher or counselor could flag someone exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening classmates or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Biden says 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws.
Biden left Americans with the following impassioned plea: “Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act. For the children we’ve lost, the children we can save, for the nation we love, let’s hear the call and the cry. Let’s meet the moment. Let us finally do something.”
The Hill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.