Former Vice President Joe Biden said it’s a “moral” failure on the part of the federal government if it does not pass significant gun control legislation, including banning assault weapons, in response to the torrent of mass shootings in recent years.
“We will see only more and deadlier shootings if we continue to dodge the core issue of unregulated assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in our communities,” the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.
“If we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won’t just be a political failure. It will be a moral one,” he continued. “It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy. That we are desensitized to children running from schools and bodies littering parking lots, that our outpouring of thoughts and prayers will grow increasingly hollow.”
During his time in the Senate, Biden wrote the assault weapons ban legislation that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The measure barred the manufacture of 19 specific semi-automatic firearms and made it illegal to possess newly manufactured magazines holding 10 or more rounds of ammunition.
But the legislation expired in 2004, ending the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“Those gun safety reforms made our nation demonstrably more secure,” Biden wrote in the Times. “They were also, sadly, the last meaningful gun legislation we were able get signed into law before the [National Rifle Association] and the gun manufacturers put the Republican Party in a headlock.”
“I fought hard to extend the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines bans in 2004,” he continued. “The Republicans who allowed these laws to expire asserted that they were ineffective. But, almost 15 years after the bans expired, with the unfortunate benefit of hindsight, we now know that they did make a difference.”
The need for an assault weapons ban, as well as the expansion of universal background checks for firearms purchases, are universally agreed upon by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Both Biden and businessman Andrew Yang are pushing for gun owners to use “smart guns,” also known as “personalized guns,” which use technology such as fingerprint readers or other biometric sensors to prevent unauthorized users from firing them.
In contrast to some of his more progressive rivals in the 2020 race, Biden has spoken unfavorably about the potential for a federal gun licensing system.
“Gun licensing will not change whether or not people buy what weapons — what kinds of weapons they can buy, where they can use them, how they can store them,” Biden said in June.
Some experts believe gun licensing has even more potential to reduce gun violence than an assault weapons ban and expanding universal background checks.
Head over to The New York Times to read Biden’s full op-ed.