Biden’s plan moves to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and ghost guns; requires background checks for all gun sales with some exceptions; clears court backlogs and improves pretrial supervision of criminal cases; and invests in recruiting and training 100,000 additional police officers for community policing over the next five years.
He also forcefully defended the FBI as the agency and its employees have come under increased criticism and threats of violence since executing a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
“It’s sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the life of law enforcement and their families, for simply carrying out the law and doing their job,” Biden said before a crowd of more than 500 at Wilkes University. “I’m opposed to defunding the police; I’m also opposed to defunding the FBI.”
Biden used his Tuesday visit to call out Republicans for opposing his proposal to restore a ban on assault-style weapons. Both parties worked together in a rare effort to pass bipartisan gun safety legislation earlier this year after massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, but Biden has repeatedly said more needs to be done.
“We beat the NRA. We took them on and beat the NRA straight up. You have no idea how intimidating they are to elected officials,” an animated Biden said. “We’re not stopping here. I’m determined to ban assault weapons in this country! Determined. I did it once before. And I’ll do it again.”
As a U.S. senator, Biden played a leading role in temporarily banning assault-style weapons, including firearms similar to the AR-15 that have exploded in popularity in recent years, and he wants to put the law back into place. Biden argued that there was no rationale for such weapons “outside of a war zone” and noted that parents of the young victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde had to supply DNA because the weapon used in the massacre rendered the bodies unidentifiable.
Biden’s speech at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre comes as Democrats try to blunt Republican efforts to use concern about crime to their advantage in the midterms, which are two months away.
It’s a particularly fraught issue in Pennsylvania, a key swing state where a U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s office are up for grabs.
Biden’s visit to the university was rescheduled from his original visit date in July after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Following his remarks in Wilkes-Barre, Biden is slated to deliver a prime-time address Thursday in Philadelphia. The president will speak on “the continued battle for the soul of the nation” while outside Independence Hall.
“He will talk about the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack,” the White House told The Associated Press. “And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms and fighting for our democracy.”
The Associated Press and Margot Mather contributed to this report.