“The idea that we still allow the purchase of semi-automatic weapons is satisfying,” Biden said on Thanksgiving.
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After the mass killing last Saturday at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, he said in a statement: “When are we going to decide we’ve had enough?… We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off the streets of America.”
Such a move remains elusive in a deeply divided Congress. But Biden and the Democrats have become emboldened in pushing for stronger gun controls — and doing so without obvious electoral consequences.
Still, in midterm electionsDemocrats maintained control of the Senate, and Republicans have only been able to claim a narrow majority in the House of Representatives in two decades.
“I think the American public has been waiting for this message,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been the Senate’s leading advocate for stronger gun control since The massacre of 20 children at a school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. “There was a thirst from voters, especially swing voters, young voters, parents, to hear candidates talk about gun violence, and I think Democrats are finally catching up to what the public has been up to.”
Just over half of voters would like to see gun policy nationwide get tougher, according to VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide conducted for the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. About 3 in 10 want to keep the gun policy the same. Only 14% prefer looser laws.
There are clear partisan divisions. About 9 in 10 Democrats want stricter gun laws, compared to about 3 in 10 Republicans. About half of Republicans want to leave gun laws as they are and only a quarter want gun laws to be made less stringent.
When politicians talk about assault weapons, they usually mean semi-automatic rifles that can quickly fire 30 rounds without reloading. By comparison, most NYPD officers carry a semi-automatic handgun that fires 15 rounds.
Once banned in the United States, high-powered firearms are now the weapon of choice among young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. Congress allowed restrictions first put in place in 1994 on the manufacture and sale of guns to expire a decade later, unable to muster political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and reinstate the gun ban.
When he was the governor of Florida, the current Republican senator, Rick Scott Signed gun control laws In the aftermath of the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a nightclub in Orlando. But he has consistently opposed bans on assault weapons, arguing like many of his fellow Republicans that most gun owners use their guns legally.
“People are doing the right thing, why do we take their weapons?” Scott asked while the Senate was negotiating a gun bill last summer. “Does not make sense.”
He said more mental health counseling, assessments of troubled students, and law enforcement on campus make more sense.
“Let’s focus on things that would actually change something,” Scott said.
Law enforcement officials have long called for stricter gun laws, arguing that the availability of these guns makes people less safe and makes their jobs more dangerous.
Mike Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, the nation’s third-largest, said it makes sense to talk about guns when gun violence is on the rise across the country, and to consider what the government can do to make the streets safer. He’s grateful to Biden for bringing it up so often.
“It’s not an isolated incident,” Moore said of the Colorado Springs shooting. “These things are evolving all the time, in other cities, and at any given moment another incident happens. It’s crying out for the federal government and our lawmakers to come out and make this change,” he said.
Six people were shot dead on Tuesday at a Walmart store in Virginia.
The legislation Biden signed in June will help states, among other things, establish “red flag” laws that make it easier for authorities to take guns from people deemed dangerous.
But banning assault weapons was never on the table.
The 60-vote threshold in the Senate means some Republicans should be on board. Most are vehemently opposed, arguing that it would be too complicated, especially with the proliferation of firearms sales and types. There are many more types of these weapons—and many of the same weapons—today than there were in 1994, when the ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who is a hunter and owner of several guns, said, “I’d rather not try to define a whole bunch of guns as no longer available to the American public.” his family. “For those of us who grew up with guns as part of our culture, and use them as tools — there are millions of us, there are hundreds of millions of us — who use them legally.”
In many states where bans have been enacted, the restrictions are being challenged in court, gaining strength from a Supreme Court ruling In June, gun rights expanded.
“We feel very confident, despite the arguments put forward by the other side, that history and tradition as well as the letter of the Second Amendment are on our side,” said David Warrington, Chairman and General Counsel of the National Gun Rights Association. .
Biden was effective in helping secure the 1990s ban as a senator. While it was in place, the White House said, mass shootings decreased, and when it ended in 2004, shootings tripled.
Reality is complicated.
said Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at the State University of New York-Cortland and author of Gun Control Politics.
Politically, the ban sparked a backlash, even though the final bill was a compromise version of the initial bill, he said.
“The gun community was outraged,” Spitzer said.
Prohibition was blamed in some districts for Democrats losing control of Congress in 1994, Spitzer said, although later research showed the loss was more likely due to strong, well-funded conservative candidates and district boundaries.
However, after Democrat Al Gore, who supported stricter neutrality laws, lost to Republican George W. Bush in 2000, Democrats largely backtracked on the issue until the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Even then, it wasn’t an issue. campaign until the mid-2018 elections.
Now, gun control advocates are seeing progress.
“The fact that the American people elected a president who has long been an outspoken and consistent supporter of bold gun safety laws — and was recently re-elected in a landslide to the Senate — says all you need to know about how politics influences this issue,” said John Fineblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Associated Press writer Noha Dolby contributed to this report.
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