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Biden Will Urge Lawmakers to Pass Gun Laws in Speech on Mass Shootings


WASHINGTON — President Biden demanded on Thursday that lawmakers reply to communities was “killing fields” by passing far-reaching limits on guns, calling on Congress to ban assault-style weapons, expand background checks and pass “red flag” laws after massacres in Texas and Latest York.

In a rare evening address to the nation, Mr. Biden dared Republicans to disregard the repeated convulsions of anger and grief from gun violence by continuing to dam gun measures supported by large majorities in each parties, and even amongst gun owners.

“My God,” he declared from the Cross Hall, a ceremonial a part of the White House residence, which was lined with candles in honor of victims of gun violence. “The undeniable fact that nearly all of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of those proposals, even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable. We will’t fail the American people again.”

Mr. Biden’s speech got here a day after a mass shooting in Tulsa, Okla., that killed 4 victims and nine days after a massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 elementary school children and two teachers. Ten days before that, 10 Black people were gunned down in a food market in Buffalo. The list, Mr. Biden said, goes on.

“After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland — nothing has been done,” he said, lamenting many years of inaction.

With the 17-minute address, Mr. Biden abruptly shed the reluctance of his White House to interact in what could grow to be yet one more fruitless partisan confrontation, played out amid funerals in Uvalde, Buffalo and Tulsa. After weeks of fastidiously calibrating his calls for motion, the president on Thursday didn’t hold back.

“Enough, enough. It’s time for every of us to do our part,” he told Americans. “For the youngsters we’ve lost. For the youngsters we are able to save. For the nation we love.”

“Let’s hear the decision and the cry,” he said, almost pleading together with his fellow politicians in Washington. “Let’s meet the moment. Allow us to finally do something.”

Whether that can occur stays unclear. Despite his forceful tone, Mr. Biden all but acknowledged in his speech the political realities that would make him just one other in a protracted line of presidents to have demanded motion on guns, only to fail. He called the fight “hard,” and moments after urging a ban on assault weapons, he offered alternatives if that proved to be not possible.

“If we are able to’t ban assault weapons, then we must always raise the age to buy them from 18 to 21, strengthen the background checks,” he said. He called on Congress to “enact protected storage law and red flag laws, repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability, address the mental health crisis.”

In his remarks, Mr. Biden turned his evident cynicism about Republicans right into a form of political threat, saying that “if Congress fails, I think this time a majority of the American people won’t hand over either. I think nearly all of you’ll act to show your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.”

Mr. Biden is just not a newcomer to the gun debate.

He has repeatedly said he favors reinstating the ban on assault weapons that he helped pass as a senator and was law for a decade before it expired in 2004. He has called on lawmakers to pass universal background checks for a decade, since 20 children were killed in a shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

But each of those measures are seen as highly unlikely to pass in Congress, where fierce Republican opposition has historically stood of their way. Lawmakers in each parties have said recently that they don’t imagine there may be enough bipartisan support to approve either approach.

House Democrats on Thursday advanced a wide-ranging package of gun control laws that may prohibit the sale of semiautomatic rifles to people under 21 and ban the sale of magazines that hold greater than 10 rounds of ammunition. But those measures, too, were all but certain to die within the Senate.

Democrats recommend the laws in response to the killings in Uvalde and the racist massacre in Buffalo — each, the police say, by the hands of 18-year-old gunmen using legally purchased AR-15-style weapons.

A bitterly divided House Judiciary Committee spent Thursday considering the laws and approved it Thursday evening, on a party-line vote of 25 to 19. Fierce Republican opposition through the committee debate underscored the partisan animosity.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of Latest York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned that one other shooting was not far-off. He pleaded with Republicans, “My friends, what the hell are you waiting for?”

Republicans deride such measures as unconstitutional attempts to take guns from law-abiding Americans, robbing them of their right to defend themselves. Representative Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina, expressed outrage that Democrats had painted Republicans as complicit in mass shootings, declaring, “You aren’t going to bully your way into stripping Americans of fundamental rights.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said administration officials had been in close touch with lawmakers over the past several days as a bipartisan group of senators discussed a narrower set of limits on gun ownership.

The negotiations have centered on expanding background checks and providing incentives for states to pass red flag laws, which permit guns to be seized from dangerous people. The group can also be taking a look at proposals on the protected storage of guns at home, community violence and mental health, in line with aides and senators involved within the talks.

With Republicans unanimously against most major gun control measures, the Senate talks offer what might be one of the best probability at finding a bipartisan compromise on guns that would pass the 50-to-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed to interrupt a filibuster and convey laws to a vote.

However the endeavor faces long odds, with little evidence that either side is willing to present ground on a debate that has been stalled for years.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut is leading the talks for Democrats, joined by his fellow party members Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Martin Heinrich of Latest Mexico. The Republican senators they’re huddling with include Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine.

Those nine negotiators met over Zoom on Wednesday to debate their progress, convening for an hour after days of individual phone calls and smaller meetings with one another and their colleagues. Talks were expected to proceed before the Senate returns early next week.

“We’re making rapid progress toward a common sense package that would garner support from each Republicans and Democrats,” Ms. Collins said in a transient statement after the meeting.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a top ally to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has also been involved in discussions, including a Tuesday meeting with Mr. Murphy, Ms. Sinema and Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina.

Democratic leaders have warned that if an agreement can’t be reached quickly, they are going to force votes on the bills within the House, which would not have Republican support, to reveal for Americans which lawmakers are standing in the way in which of passing gun safety measures.

“I’m cleareyed concerning the history of failure,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an interview after Wednesday’s meeting. “But when there’s ever a moment to place up or shut up, this one is it.”

In the times immediately after the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, each the president and Vice President Kamala Harris largely stayed away from any direct negotiations with lawmakers about how one can create a response to the shootings that may pass in Congress.

But on Thursday, Mr. Biden abandoned that approach, deciding as a substitute to put down a marker that can cement his legacy as a president who fought for tougher gun laws, successful or not.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Biden described the deep grief that he experienced when he and his wife talked to the families of victims within the two mass shootings.

“At each places, we spent hours with a whole bunch of members of the family, who were broken, whose lives won’t ever be the identical,” he said. “That they had one message for all of us: Do something. Just do something. For God’s sake, do something.”

“How far more carnage are we willing to just accept?” he asked. “What number of more innocent American lives should be taken before we are saying: Enough. Enough.”

And he made the goal of his comment clear, saying it now falls to Congress to pass the far-reaching laws it has refused to up to now.

“The query now could be: What’s going to the Congress do?” he said. The president said he supported the efforts by the bipartisan group within the Senate to search out a compromise, but called it the least lawmakers should do.

The approach Thursday night was more just like the response from former President Barack Obama in January 2013, just weeks after the shooting at the varsity in Newtown.

Mr. Obama, flanked by Mr. Biden, who was then the vice chairman, proposed a package of gun control measures, including: ensuring that each one gun owners undergo a background check; improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally in poor health; banning assault weapons; and capping magazine clip capability at 10 bullets.

Within the face of Republican opposition, Mr. Obama dropped his demand for an assault weapon ban and limits on the scale of magazine clips. After months of pushing by Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, the Senate rejected a bipartisan effort to expand background checks.

In scathing comments after the bill died, Mr. Obama derided senators for deciding that the lives of youngsters weren’t well worth the effort to pass laws. A decade later, Mr. Obama’s grim assessment stands as a warning for Mr. Biden of what might occur again.

“All in all,” Mr. Obama said on the time, “this was a fairly shameful day for Washington.”

Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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