Washington (AFP), June 3 – US President Joe Biden on Thursday issued a fervent call for lawmakers to pass tougher gun control laws, including a ban on assault weapons, to curb the scourge of mass shootings transforming American communities in “killing fields”.
Biden delivered the 17-minute speech – his latest call for tougher gun measures – with 56 lit candles laid out along a long hallway behind him, representing US states and territories suffering from gun violence. .
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept? the president asked in the speech, which he delivered with anger in his voice, and at times approaching a whisper.
“We can no longer disappoint the American people,” he said, condemning the refusal of a majority of Republican senators to support tougher laws as “unconscionable.”
At a minimum, Biden said, lawmakers should raise the age at which assault weapons can be purchased from 18 to 21.
He also urged them to take action, including tightening background checks, banning high-capacity magazines, mandating safe gun storage and allowing gun manufacturers to be held accountable. crimes committed with their proceeds.
“Over the past two decades, more school-aged children have died from firearms than serving police and active-duty military combined. Think about it,” Biden said.
He highlighted the story of a young student who smeared herself with the blood of a dead classmate to hide from a gunman at a Texas elementary school, saying: “Imagine what it would be like for her to walk down the hall again at any school.”
“There are too many other schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America,” Biden said.
While Republican lawmakers have largely resisted tougher gun laws, a group of cross-party U.S. senators held talks Thursday on a package of gun controls.
Nine senators gathered this week to discuss a response to the mass shootings that have appalled the nation, projecting optimism about the prospects for modest reforms.
The group has focused on school safety, strengthening mental health services and pushing for states to grant courts “red flag” power to temporarily remove guns from owners deemed a threat – a extent that Biden also called for in his remarks.
– Attack at the hospital –
Even as lawmakers ponder a response to the racist killing of 10 black supermarket shoppers in Buffalo and the school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, another attack took place in Oklahoma on Wednesday.
A man armed with a pistol and rifle murdered two doctors, a receptionist and a patient at a Tulsa hospital complex before killing himself when police arrived.
Lawmakers are aware they risk losing momentum as the urgency for reforms sparked by the murders wears off, and another small group of senators are holding parallel discussions about expanding background checks on drug sales. fire arms.
The political challenge of legislating in a 50-50 Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to pass, means broader reforms are unrealistic.
Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, told reporters that senators were trying to “target the problem” – which he said was “mental illness and school safety” rather than gun availability.
House Democrats are nonetheless set to pass a much broader but largely symbolic ‘Protecting Our Children Act’, which calls for raising the age of purchase of semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. and to ban high-capacity magazines.
The package will likely make it through the Democratic-led House next week before dying amid Republican opposition in the Senate.
With regulation being so difficult at the federal level, an effort is also underway among state legislatures to push for tougher gun laws.
California lawmakers proposed a package of gun control measures in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, which included proposals to open gun manufacturers to civil liability in certain cases.
The proposals echo action by lawmakers in New York state, while a purchase permit bill is being considered by the Delaware legislature and pro-rights Texas firearms, seeks to “make legislative recommendations” in response to the Uvalde shooting.
Campaigners for greater restrictions, however, fear a setback at the federal level as the Supreme Court is set to issue its first major opinion on the Second Amendment in more than a decade.
Judges are expected to rule in the coming weeks on a dispute over New York State’s strict limits on the concealed carry of handguns outside the home.
A narrow view could affect just a few states with similar laws, but activists fear the conservative majority will issue a broader ruling that will pave the way for constitutional challenges to gun safety laws across the country.