President Joe Biden (D.) blamed Congress on Friday for the failure to quickly implement his aggressive gun-control agenda.
Biden bristled when asked whether he was still prioritizing gun control in the wake of Thursday’s mass shooting in Indianapolis, pointing the finger at the legislative branch. He blamed Republicans for the Senate’s inaction on sweeping new gun-control measures, even though his own party currently controls the chamber.
“I’ve never not prioritized this,” Biden said at a White House press conference that focused mainly on infrastructure spending and the coronavirus pandemic. “But it’s not a question of my being able to set the agenda in the Senate as to what they will move to first. And so I strongly, strongly urge my Republican friends in the Congress, who even refuse to bring up the House-passed bill, to bring it up now.”
Biden called the situation a “national embarrassment” and called on Congress to pass a ban on common ammunition magazines and rifles including the AR-15.
“I’ve never stopped supporting the ban on assault weapons and magazines that hold more than ten bullets,” he said. “Who in god’s name needs a weapon that can hold 100 rounds or 40 rounds or 20 rounds? It’s just wrong. And I’m not going to give up until it’s done.”
The House of Representatives passed two gun-control bills in early March to expand and reform the gun background check system. H.R. 1446 would increase the time the FBI can delay someone’s gun purchase to investigate their background from 3 business days to 20 days. H.R. 8 would require private citizens, with limited exceptions, to involve a federally licensed gun dealer when they want to sell one of their guns or even lend it to someone.
The Republican caucus is united against both, and moderate Democrats, including Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and John Tester (Mont.), have publicly said they don’t support them either. Multiple Republican aides told the Washington Free Beacon in late March the House bills are “dead on arrival.” An aide for Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey, the Republican who took a prominent role in advocating a failed universal background check proposal alongside Manchin in 2013, also said Toomey is not interested in being the face of a bill unless it has a real chance of passing.
“Senator Toomey is not interested in playing political games or being an example in a background check exercise,” the aide said. “He’s interested in achieving an actual outcome.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), who is leading Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass a gun bill, said last Monday he had spoken to half of the GOP senators and determined H.R. 8 will not pass the Senate. He said a compromise gun bill could be possible, but Democratic efforts to curtail “non-commercial private sales” make Republicans “uncomfortable.” He also noted Republicans have “legitimate due process concerns” when it comes to Red Flag laws.
“I think, unfortunately, what we’d be able to get 60 votes for here is, you know, something that’s less than what the House passed,” Murphy told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Toomey told Raju the same day that “it’s hard to say” if any progress was being made on the issue despite ongoing conversations.
Biden also pointed to the executive actions he announced on April 8 as evidence of his commitment to implementing new gun restrictions. Those actions could outlaw guns owned by tens of millions of gun owners, turning them into felons.
Biden said he will continue to push for new gun-control legislation but will also pursue his other priorities. Those include his infrastructure and jobs plan, increasing the number of refugees admitted into the country, and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
“It doesn’t mean that I can’t also be working at the same time on the economy and on COVID,” he said.