By Shelby Talcott
President Joe Biden on Thursday laid out his gun control demands, calling for a ban on “assault weapons and high capacity magazines” in addition to a slew of other proposals.
The president delivered his remarks at the White House with 56 candles, representing gun violence victims in all states and territories, burning in the background. His speech, which largely centered around a call to action, came one day after a shooter killed four people at a hospital in Oklahoma. It also came shortly a mass shooter killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and just weeks after a mass shooter killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
“They had one message for all of us: Do something, just do something, for God’s sake, do something,” Biden first said, referring to his visits to Buffalo and Texas, where he met with victim’s family members.
The president, before diving into his gun control push, tried to assure Americans that “this is not about taking away anyone’s guns.”
“It is … not about vilifying gun owners,” Biden said. “In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave.”
“I respect the culture and tradition, and the concerns of lawful gun owners. At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute,” Biden added.
Biden continued on to make his requests clear, at a time when Congress is attempting to move legislation forward on gun control. The House Judiciary Committee met Thursday to advance a package along party lines, and a group of bipartisan senators have been discussing ways to come to an agreement on gun control.
The president began his push for gun control by reiterating his call to ban “assault weapons and high capacity magazines.” If so-called assault weapons can’t be banned, the president said the age to purchase them should be raised from 18 to 21.
“We should limit how many rounds a weapon can hold,” Biden said. “Why, in God’s name, should an ordinary citizen be able to purchase an assault weapon that holds thirty-round magazines that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in [a] matter of minutes?”
Biden also called for expanding background checks. This, he argued, would help “keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives and those under restraining orders.”
He pushed for “safe storage laws,” which require gun owners to make efforts – like locking up guns or keeping ammunition separate – to keep their guns out of the hands of children and anyone who may take the gun and use it in a crime.
“If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it. Every responsible gun owner agrees, to make sure that no one else can have access to it … And if you don’t, and something bad happens, you should be held responsible,” Biden said.
The president continued on to express support for “national red flag laws,” saying that it would allow for a parent, teacher or counselor to “flag for a court” if an individual is “exhibiting violent tendencies.” Biden said “19 states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws.”
“We should repeal the liability shield that often protects gun manufacturers from being sued for the death and destruction caused by their weapons,” the president also argued. “They’re the only industry in this country that has that kind of immunity.” (RELATED: House Passes Gun Control Bill Enforcing Universal Background Checks)
Finally, Biden honed in on America’s “mental health crisis.”
“There’s a serious youth mental health crisis in this country, and we have to do something about it,” the president said. “That’s why mental health is at the heart of my unity agenda that I laid out at the State of the Union address this year. We must provide more school counselors, more school nurses, more mental health services for students and for teachers. More people volunteering as mentors to help young people succeed. More privacy protection and resources to keep kids safe from the harms of social media.”
Biden ended his speech by raising a pointed question to Congress, asking: “What will the Congress do?”
“My fellow Americans, enough,” Biden declared. “Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act. For the children we’ve lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love.”