President Joe Biden said Thursday that he was open to a last-ditch effort to ban assault-style weapons as the 117th Congress winds down and Republicans prepare to take over control of the House in January.
With Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress for just a few more weeks, Biden said he would “start counting votes” to see how much support there might be for such legislation.
“I’m going to try to get rid of assault weapons,” he told reporters during a Thanksgiving Day visit to Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts.
In less than one week, two major mass shootings claimed the lives of at least five people at a Colorado nightclub and at least six people at a Virginia Walmart, renewing once more the national debate over how to stop these horrific killings. Authorities say the Colorado suspect had both an AR-style rifle and a handgun, and the Virginia suspect, now deceased, used a handgun.
Assault-style weapons are frequently seen in the deadliest mass shooting rampages, including both the Uvalde school shooting and the Buffalo supermarket shooting that attracted national and international attention this year.
Biden has said repeatedly he is “determined to ban assault weapons” in the U.S. again after successfully helping implement a ban on new sales of certain semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines in 1994.
Although the term “assault weapon” is often criticized by gun-rights advocates because its meaning is not well defined, it generally refers to semiautomatic rifles that are designed for rapid fire.
“The idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick, it’s just sick,” Biden said Thursday. “It has no social redeeming value, zero, none. Not a single, solitary rationale for it.”
The 1994 assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse after a decade, during the Bush administration.
Other potential solutions include red flag laws, which allow a judge to step in and prevent a person from accessing guns if they are deemed to be at risk of crisis. Some gun control advocates say these laws can be very effective, but greater public awareness is needed to help them reach their full potential.
Colorado has a red flag law in place, but why it was not used in the case of Anderson Lee Aldrich ― the Colorado club shooting suspect ― is not fully understood yet.
Biden remarked on the apparent lapse as he spoke to reporters on Nantucket.
“The idea that we’re not enforcing red flag laws ... is ridiculous,” he said.