Biden, mayors, protesters amplify calls for more gun laws, renewed ban on ‘assault weapons’

Concealed Carry

President Biden and mayors across the country on Monday called on Congress to pass a new ban on assault weapons and expand background checks.

Activists also descended on Washington for a “Save our Students” rally in response to a series of high-profile shootings that has intensified the debate over guns.

Mr. Biden said Americans want lawmakers to “act on commonsense gun safety reforms.”

“It’s within Congress’ power to require safe storage and universal background checks, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter. “This should happen without delay.”

A group of 162 mayors issued like-minded demands in an open letter to Congress demanding they do more to address the “senseless acts of violence involving guns.”

“How many children must die, how many adults must die before our nation takes action to reduce gun violence?” the mayors, the vast majority of whom are Democrats, said in the letter. “We must and we can do more to protect people from this senseless slaughter.”

Meanwhile, protesters marched on the U.S. Capitol carrying “Kids Over Guns” signs and chanting “pass the ban.” They were from the group March Fourth that formed in response to the Independence Day parade shooting last year that killed seven people in Highland Park, Illinois.

Gun-control advocates have long sought to restore the 1997 ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles such as the popular AR-15, which critics labeled assault weapons. That ban, which Mr. Biden helped pass when he was a senator from Delaware, expired after 10 years.

The various pleas on Monday for new gun-control laws came after more mass shootings over the weekend, including at a teen’s birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama, where four people were killed.

“What has our nation come to when children cannot attend a birthday party without fear?” Mr. Biden said. “When parents have to worry about their children every time they walk out the door?”

“Americans agree and want lawmakers to act on commonsense gun safety reforms,” he said.

The mayors, in their letter, said local leaders are “doing everything they can to prevent and reduce gun violence in their cities, although local ordinances are often preempted by state legislatures.”

“Today we repeat their message and urge you to immediately pass and send to the president legislation to ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines and to strengthen the background check system, bills that could have prevented what happened in Louisville and Nashville and so many other cities from happening in the future,” they said.

The demands have run into stiff opposition from Republicans and Second Amendment activists.

The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups argue that the push for tighter laws is the federal government encroaching on individual rights. They blame gun violence on the erosion of families, mental illness, and societal and cultural ills.

The issue is shaping up to be a clear dividing line in the 2024 presidential election and competitive congressional races.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, sponsored legislation to ban assault weapons. Backed by 40 Democrats, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, the bill does not have the votes needed to pass the Senate and does not have the support of a single Republican in the upper chamber.

Former President Donald Trump and other current and likely GOP 2024 presidential contenders showed their support for gun owners at last week’s NRA gathering in Indianapolis where they rallied behind the push to put armed guards in public and private schools.

Mr. Trump said he will push for a new tax credit to help teachers cover the cost of going through concealed carry firearm training.

“With me at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, no one will lay a finger on your firearms,” Mr. Trump told NRA members. “They want to take away your guns while throwing open the jailhouse doors and releasing bloodthirsty criminals into your communities.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence called for swifter execution of mass shooters. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.

“So to Joe Biden and the gun control extremists, I say: Give up on your pipe dreams of gun confiscation, stop endangering our lives with gun bans, and stop trampling on our God-given rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution!” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Biden and gun-control advocates believe public opinion is on their side.

A Gallup poll released in February found that 63% of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s gun laws, the highest level in 23 years. Satisfaction with the nation’s gun laws has sunk to 34%.

Gallup’s tracking polls show public opinion was divided for years, and dissatisfaction started to rise following the December 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

Views of gun laws break along partisan lines with 54% of Republicans saying they are satisfied with the status quo and 84% of Democrats saying they are dissatisfied.

Mr. Biden last year signed into law the nation’s first new gun control bill in decades.

The legislation, which expands background checks to include juvenile records and incentivizes states to adopt “red flag” laws, came in response to a wave of deadly mass shootings, including a racially fueled attack that killed 10 Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and an attack on a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers.

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