Joe Biden cheered, Dems push for ban on semi-automatic weapons

When chairman Joe Biden speaks about the “scourge” of gun violenceis his go-to answer to zoom in on semi-automatic weapons.

America has heard it hundreds of times, including this week after shootings in Colorado and Virginia: The president wants to sign a ban on high-powered weapons which have the ability to kill many people very quickly.

“The idea that we are still allowing semi-automatic weapons to be bought is sick. Just sick,” Biden said on Thanksgiving Day.

Following Saturday’s mass murder at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, he said in a statement: “When will we decide we’ve had enough? … We must enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off American streets.”

Such a step is still a long way off in a deeply divided Congress. But Biden and the Democrats have been increasingly emboldened to push for tighter gun controls — with no apparent electoral fallout.

The Democrat-led House has passed legislation in July to revive a 1990s ban on certain semi-automatic weapons Biden’s vocal support. And the president pushed the gun ban almost everywhere he campaigned this year.

Yet in the midterm electionsthe Democrats retained control of the Senate and the Republicans could only claim the smallest majority in the House in two decades.

The hard talk about guns follows passage a milestone in June bipartisan law on gunsand it reflects the steady progress gun control advocates have made in recent years.

“I think the American public has been waiting for this message,” said Connecticut’s Democratic senator. Chris Murphywho has been the Senate’s leading advocate for stronger gun control since the 2012 massacre of 20 children at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. on gun violence, and I think the Democrats are finally catching up a little bit where the public has been.

Just over half of voters want gun policies tightened nationwide, according to AP 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 the gun policy to be maintained. Only 14% prefer looser gun laws.

There are clear partisan lines. About 9 in 10 Democrats want stricter gun laws, compared to about 3 in 10 Republicans. About half of Republicans want gun laws to stay as they are and only a quarter want gun laws relaxed.

When politicians talk about semi-automatic weapons, they usually mean semi-automatic rifles that can fire 30 rounds quickly without reloading. By comparison, most New York City Police Department officers carry a semi-automatic pistol that fires 15 rounds.

Once banned in the United States, the high-powered firearms are now the weapon of choice for young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. Congress allowed the restrictions first introduced in 1994 on the production and sale of guns to expire a decade later, unable to muster the political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and reinstate the gun ban.

When he was governor of Florida, current Republican senator. Rick Scott signed gun control bills in the wake of mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and an Orlando nightclub. But he has consistently opposed bans on semi-automatic weapons, arguing like many of his Republican colleagues that most gun owners use their guns legally.

“People are doing the right thing, why should we take away their guns?” Scott asked when the Senate was negotiating gun legislation last summer. “It does not make any sense.”

He said more mental health services, assessments of struggling students and on-campus law enforcement make more sense.

“Let’s focus on things that would actually make a difference,” Scott said.

Law enforcement officials have long advocated for stricter gun laws, arguing that the availability of these guns makes people less safe and their jobs more dangerous.

Mike Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, the country’s third-largest police department, said it just makes sense to talk about guns when gun violence is on the rise across the country, and think about what the government can do to make the streets safer. He is grateful that Biden brings it up so often.

“This is not a one-off,” Moore said of the Colorado Springs shooting. “These things are constantly evolving, in other cities there is a different incident happening every moment. It cries out for the federal government, for our legislators, to make this change,” he said.

There has been a supermarket for half a year shooting in Buffalo, New York; a massacre of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas; and the 4th of July shooting of revelers in Highland Park, Illinois.

On Tuesday, six people were shot dead at a Walmart in Virginia.

The legislation Biden signed into law in June will, among other things, help states enact “red flag” laws that make it easier for authorities to take guns from people deemed dangerous.

But a ban on semi-automatic weapons was never on the table.

A 60 vote threshold in the Senate means some Republicans need to be on board. Most are steadfastly against it, claiming it would be too complicated, especially as firearms sales and varieties have skyrocketed. There are many more types of those weapons today — and many more of the weapons themselves — than there were in 1994, when the ban was signed by the president. Bill Clinton.

“I would rather not try to define an entire group of guns as no longer available to the American public,” the Republican senator said. Mike Rounds from South Dakota, who is a hunter and owns several guns, some of which have been passed down through his family. “For those of us who grew up with guns as part of our culture, and we use them as tools – there are millions of us, there are hundreds of millions of us – using them legally.”

In many states where the bans have been enacted, the restrictions are being challenged in court, with them being strengthened by a Supreme Court ruling extension of gun rights in June.

“We are quite confident, despite the arguments of the other side, that history and tradition as well as the text of the Second Amendment are on our side,” he said. David Warringtonpresident and general counsel of the National Association for Gun Rights.

Biden played an important role in securing the 1990s ban as a senator. The White House said that while it was in effect, the number of mass shootings decreased, and when it ended in 2004, the number of shootings tripled.

Reality is complicated.

The data on effectiveness is mixed and there is a sense that other measures that are not as politically charged may be more effective, said Robert Spizerprofessor of political science at the State University of New York-Cortland and author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”

Politically, the ban caused a backlash, even though the final law was a compromise version of the original bill, he said.

“The gun community was outraged,” Spitzer said.

The ban is attributed in some quarters to the Democrats losing control of Congress in 1994, though later research has shown that the loss likely had more to do with strong, well-funded conservative candidates and district boundaries, Spitzer said.

Still, after Democrat Al Gorewho supported stricter gun laws lost to the White House race against the Republican in 2000 George W. Bushthe Democrats largely retreated from the issue until the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Even after that, it wasn’t a campaign topic until the 2018 midterm elections.

Now gun control advocates are seeing progress.

“The fact that the American people have elected a president who has long been an outspoken and steadfast advocate of bold gun safety laws — and recently re-elected a majority in the Senate with gun sense — says everything you need to know about how dramatic the politics are on this issue. is. have shifted,” he said John Feinblattpresident of Everytown for Gun Safety.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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