The speech, which compared dead American children to US casualties in war, came on a night when fellow Democrats on a House committee passed a string of proposals that most Americans might support but have no chance of passing through a GOP blockade in the Senate. The National Rifle Association immediately rejected his proposals, but a few Senate Republicans are still negotiating with Democrats.
If Congress fails again this time, he asked Americans to vote in November, an acknowledgment that any legislative victory on gun safety will be hard to achieve — and an unusual call to political action from the White House.
“Memorial Day, this past Monday, Jill and I visited Arlington National Cemetery. … We saw rows and rows of crosses … honoring those who paid the ultimate price on battlefields around the world. The day before, we visited Uvalde — Uvalde, Texas. In front of Robb Elementary school, we stood before 21 crosses for 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers.”
Biden opens his speech equating the dead from domestic gun violence with the dead from American wars abroad. He appears at the White House with memorial candles behind him.
“I want to be very clear. This is not about taking away anyone’s guns. It’s not about vilifying gun owners. … I respect the culture and the tradition, the concerns of lawful gun owners.”
Here Biden answers the main charge of Republicans who oppose gun control measures: that the government wants to trample on their right to have guns. His promise here won’t stop those concerns or GOP attacks on him that use these lines.
“At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute.”
Biden quotes the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia here and points out that machine guns and other types of weapons have long been regulated. In a statement, the NRA dismissed the speech: “All that the President repeatedly proposes will only infringe on the rights of those law-abiding who have never, and will never, commit a crime.”
“Guns are the No. 1 killer of children in the United States. Number one killer. More than car accidents, more than cancer.”
Biden also argued that more kids have been killed by guns than on-duty police officers or soldiers over the past two decades, but the data for that claim was not immediately available.
“We should reinstate the assault weapons ban … we passed in 1994 with bipartisan support in Congress and the support of law enforcement.”
Biden helped pass that law in 1994. But the bipartisan majority that supported it then does not exist today. The law lapsed in 2004.
The bipartisan group now trying to eke out a marginal agreement after these most recent shootings is not thought to be even considering any of these suggestions.