hi President Joe Biden used the latest mass shooting on Tuesday to make his most outspoken call for gun control since taking office, arguing that the deaths of ten people at a grocery store in Colorado could jolt Washington and the rest of the country into action.
It’s a message that previous presidents have used with mixed results. However, Biden, who has a long and mixed record on the subject, indicated that he was willing to push for legislation even as he balances other interests in Congress.
He said he would do everything in his power to keep Americans safe in somber remarks from the White House State Dining Room, and he pushed a pair of House-passed gun laws, including a mandatory background checks measure.
After admitting that more information about Monday’s shooting, such as the shooter’s motive and weapons, were still unknown, Biden maintained that enough was understood to make an ardent appeal for new gun control.
“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour,” he said, citing assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as places where he would like to see Congress act, as well as improving the background check system by closing loopholes.
“This is not — it should not be — a partisan issue. This is an American issue,” he said. “It will save lives, American lives. We have to act.”
However, the difficulties of pressing for gun reform at a time when a variety of other policy agendas loomed became obvious right away. Following his remarks, Biden left the White House for a visit to Ohio, where he is supporting the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed earlier this month. Aides are also working on an infrastructure plan that will be announced shortly.
When the Colorado incident happened, Biden noticed that the White House flag was already flying at half-staff to commemorate the victims of last week’s shooting in Atlanta. He had it reduced once more.
In the wake of the Atlanta attack, the President made no mention of gun control, even during remarks after visiting the area, instead focusing on a recent rash of violent crimes against Asian-Americans. However, after another mass shooting in Colorado, he was under the pressure to speak out about the situation.
During a swearing-in ceremony for William Burns as CIA director earlier Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris called the shooting “completely horrific,” but she skipped a query about gun control’s future.
For more than three decades, Biden has been at the forefront of the nation’s gun policy evolution, from the success of a 10-year assault weapons ban in 1994 to the failure of a failed campaign for universal background checks in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre.
But now, in the fight about weapons in America, Biden wields a bully pulpit he’s never had before, and he’s faced with the task of figuring out how — or whether — to use the White House’s influence and try to make gun control legislation a reality.
The shootings in Georgia and Colorado occurred early in Biden’s presidency, sparking a debate within the West Wing over how much political capital Biden could devote to a problem that has too often resulted in dissatisfaction. However, the debate takes place at a moment when the powerful gun lobby is fractured and weakened, which some allies see as an opportunity for Biden.