President Joe Biden (D.) renewed his call to ban AR-15s and other popular firearms in response to the murder of 10 Black Americans at a grocery store in Buffalo.
During his speech to the victims’ families and other community members on Tuesday, the President mourned the loss of life and denounced the racist motivations of the attacker. He also called on Congress to pass a new “assault weapons” ban in response to the attack. He argued reviving the ban, which was in place between 1994 and 2004, would help prevent similar shootings.
“We have to refuse to live in a country where Black people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war employed in a racist cause,” Biden said.
The President’s comments come as his gun-control proposals have been stalled in Congress for nearly his entire presidency. Despite repeated calls for new restrictions on AR-15s and other guns in the wake of mass shootings, none of Biden’s gun bills have made it to his desk. While efforts to expand background checks to private sales and extend how long the FBI can delay a sale for a check passed the Democratically-controlled House last year, neither has enough backing to receive a vote in the evenly-divided Senate. Additionally, the House has not passed an “assault weapons” ban since Biden took office.
The President admitted such a ban would not prevent all future attacks but said it would make mass shootings rarer.
“Look, I’m not naive,” he said. “I know tragedy will come again. It can not be forever overcome. It can not be fully understood either. But there are certain things we can do. We can keep assault weapons off our streets.”
He argued all that’s needed to pass the ban into law is the “courage” to “stand up” from legislators.
“We’ve done it before,” Biden said. “I did it when we passed the crime bill last time.”
Biden further claimed the ban caused violence and shootings to go down. However, the claim that assault weapons bans prevent mass shootings or general gun violence is highly disputed. A Rand Corporation review of relevant studies found no conclusive evidence bans affect killings. Additionally, New York already has an assault weapons ban more restrictive than the federal ban Biden helped pass while in the Senate.
The shooter purchased a New-York legal AR-15 from a licensed dealer after passing a background check because previous concerns about his mental health were not elevated to the point where he would be prohibited from buying guns. The same rambling online post he left behind, which outlined his desire to murder Black people as “an act of terrorism” to scare non-Whites into leaving the country also explained how he had illegally modified the gun to accept detachable magazines. In that post, he also made statements about how the state’s assault weapons ban and other gun-control measures lowered the likelihood of “threats from law-abiding civilians” as he carried out his attack.
As is common in mass shooter manifestos, the shooter’s post is deeply at odds with itself in a myriad of ways. While he said he opposed new gun restrictions, he carried on with his attack despite predicting it would be used to institute new gun-control measures. He also claims to have picked the AR-15 as his weapon of choice in part because it would increase focus on the attack. The often-incoherent screed lists a deranged mix of contradictory motivations for the terror attack, which included radical environmentalism, opposition to drug use, anti-semitism, anti-democratic views, anti-pornography views, the desire to kill famous world leaders and investors, a desire for death and infamy, concerns about low birth rates, and much more.
The desire to spark a race war and drive minorities out of the country is a common refrain throughout the document, though.
While Biden called for a new “assault weapons” ban during his speech, the bulk of it focused on memorializing those who were killed or injured in the assault. He read the names of each person killed and briefly described their lives and how their loved ones remembered them. He singled out Aaron Salter, a 55-year-old retired Buffalo police officer, for returning fire on the attacker in an attempt to stop him.
“A hero who gave his life to save others on a Saturday afternoon,” Biden said. “And had that man not been wearing that vest he purchased, a bullet-proof vest, a lot of lives would have been saved. A beloved father and husband.”
The shooter has been charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder. A public defender entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf during an arraignment on Saturday.