Biden renews call for gun laws as House Democrats plan votes
President Joe Biden again called on Congress to pass new gun control laws Thursday after gunmen killed dozens of people in mass shootings in recent weeks.
Biden’s prime-time address came the same day that Democratic leadership detailed plans to address gun control legislation when the House returns next week — though House Democrats are not all on the same page about how to proceed on one of the most impassioned issues in American politics.
Biden aimed some comments at Republicans who have opposed gun control measures in the wake of previous mass shootings, as a bipartisan group of senators searches for proposals that might overcome a filibuster and pass the evenly divided Senate.
“This time we have to take the time to do something. And this time, it’s time for the Senate to do something,” Biden said. “But as we know, in order to get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators.”
Invoking national polls showing majority support for expansion of background checks, Biden said he supported ongoing bipartisan Senate talks to arrive at a compromise.
“The fact that a majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals, even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable,” Biden said. “We can’t fail the American people again.”
Biden said he would prefer the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban or at least raising the age to purchase such a weapon to 21, but he pushed also for bipartisan compromises on issues like expanded background checks and “red flag” legislation that would allow for courts to seize guns in an emergency situation.
Earlier Thursday, House Democrats announced plans for their own legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to colleagues, wrote that the chamber will vote on gun control legislation when the House returns from its Memorial Day break next week.
That includes a bill that packages eight gun control proposals, which the House Judiciary Committee advanced Thursday.
“It is sickening that, in America, more children die from gun violence than any other cause,” Pelosi wrote. “Saving our children can and must be a unifying mission for our nation.”
The House may also consider legislation creating an AMBER Alert-style system for active shooters and a hearing on another assault weapons ban, Pelosi wrote in the letter.
That plan has already hit some headwinds. Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, along with 20 other Democrats, wrote Pelosi and leaders Thursday, asking them to split the Judiciary Committee’s bill back into its individual proposals.
The group said they wanted the opportunity to build as much bipartisan support for the individual proposals as possible before they head to the Senate.
“In this moment of urgency and loss, the American people deserve to have legislators focused on results — getting bills to the President’s desk — and that only happens when we work to build coalitions of support for our legislation,” the group’s letter stated.
The House is also expected to take up another gun measure. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., last week said the chamber would vote on a bill from McBath to establish a federal “red flag” court procedure.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at a local event in Kentucky on Thursday, said that “mental illness and school safety are what we need to target” in any bipartisan legislation.
However, McConnell has previously said any solution needs to be targeted to specific problems identified from prior shootings.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can, but I, like most of you, believe this needs to be done, and must be done, consistent with the Constitution,” McConnell said.
Gun groups like the American Firearms Association have engaged in what they call a “full court press” against the proposals. The National Rifle Association also put out an extensive release Thursday arguing against red flag proposals.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., argued that any Republican senators who back the proposals will “betray your voters” and violate the due process rights of law-abiding citizens.
“You are a traitor to the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, you do nothing to make mass shootings less likely, and you put a target on the back of your constituents,” Gaetz said at the House Judiciary Committee meeting.
Republicans have argued for Congress to increase funding for existing school safety grant programs and passing a law that would allow the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center to include school shooting safety.
Biden and Democrats in Congress have argued that those measures would not be sufficient in the face of shootings — in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla. — that took nearly three dozen lives.