Joe Biden on Saturday used the third anniversary of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, for his expected call for further restrictions on gun ownership.
Unlike many of the actions Biden has taken to date, he indicated he would appeal to Congress for help, not use executive orders for a change.
“The Parkland students and so many other young people across the country who have experienced gun violence are carrying forward the history of the American journey,” he said in a statement. “It is a history written by young people in each generation who challenged prevailing dogma to demand a simple truth: We can do better. And we will.”
He added: “This administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer. Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”
In the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, a man identified by authorities as Nikolas Cruz, now 22, walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle. The shooting left 17 dead, including 14 students. Cruz, who is currently awaiting trial, could face the death penalty.
After the shooting, a number of Parkland students and parents began agitating for stricter gun control laws, arguing that Cruz shouldn’t have been able to obtain a gun. But others pointed to failures by law enforcement, including safety officer Scot Peterson, who has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges for not entering the school building to confront Cruz, and have urged restraint on enacting new measures.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later that the administration is ready to move on the “ambitious plan” Biden laid out during the campaign – one that called on “confiscation” of guns.
Biden said on his campaign website that he will “defeat” the National Rifle Association. Among his proposed actions are: repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers from some lawsuits; banning so-called assault weapons, as Congress did for 10 years in 1994; and forcing people either to give up certain guns and magazines or register them with the federal government.
The NRA’s lobbying arm has fired back at Biden, saying he wants to ban “America’s most popular class of centerfire rifles, as well on the factory-spec magazines for most of the defensive pistols sold in the U.S.”
“Just as when Joe Biden unsuccessfully pursued gun control as Barack Obama’s vice president, your NRA is fully prepared to oppose whatever plans he may have to ‘defeat’ America’s largest and oldest civil rights organization and the fundamental liberties it protects,” it stated in a recent blog post.
Gun-control advocacy groups are pushing both executive orders and legislative packages they believe will help lead to fewer deaths by gunfire.
While Democrats control both chambers of Congress in addition to the White House, they require some Republican support in the Senate to pass new legislation.