‘Enough, enough’: President Biden pleads for Congress to act on gun control

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Joe Biden, White House, Washington, U.S., Gun Control
President Joe Biden speaks about the latest round of mass shootings, from the East Room of the White House in Washington

US President Joe Biden has delivered an impassioned plea to Congress to act on gun control.

“Enough, enough,” he exclaimed on Thursday night as he addressed the nation and implored politicians to take action against gun violence after mass shootings he said had turned schools, supermarkets and other everyday places into “killing fields”.

If legislators fail to act, he warned, voters should use their “outrage” to turn it into a central issue in November’s midterm elections.

Speaking at the White House, Mr Biden acknowledged the stiff political headwinds as he sought to drive up pressure on Congress to pass stricter gun limits after such efforts failed following past attacks.

He repeated calls to restore a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines — and said if Congress would not embrace all of his proposals, it must at least find compromises like keeping firearms from those with mental health issues or raising the age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21.

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Mr Biden asked after last week’s shootings by an 18-year-old gunman, who killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and another attack on Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gunman shot and killed four people and himself at a medical office.

“Don’t tell me raising the age won’t make a difference,” he said.

The most recent shootings came close on the heels of the May 14 assault in Buffalo, New York, where a white 18-year-old wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighbourhood, killing 10 people and wounding three others in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism”.

“This time we have to take the time to do something,” Mr Biden said, calling out the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to pass legislation.

For all the passion of Mr Biden’s address, and for all his big asks and smaller fall back alternatives, any major action by Congress is still a long shot.

“I know how hard it is, but I’ll never give up, and if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up either,” he added. “I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.”

Adding a stark perspective to young people’s deaths, he noted that Centres for Disease Control data shows “guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America,” ahead of car crashes.

“Over the last two decades, more school-age children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military — combined,” he said.

Aware of persistent criticism from gun-rights advocates, Mr Biden insisted his appeal was not about “vilifying gun owners” or “taking away anybody’s guns”.

“We should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave,” Mr Biden said. “This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights, it’s about protecting children, it’s about protecting families.”

He called on Congress to end “outrageous” protections for gun manufacturers, which severely limit their liability over how their firearms are used, comparing it to the tobacco industry, which has faced repeated litigation over its products’ role in causing cancer and other diseases.

“Imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued, where we’d be today,” Mr Biden said.

All major broadcast networks broke away from regular programming to carry Mr Biden’s remarks at 7:30pm EDT (12.30 GMT), before the start of prime-time shows.

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