President Biden Calls for a 'Unity Agenda' of Life-Saving New Gun Laws: 'Here's What I Believe We Have to Do'

The president on Thursday called for a reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that was passed in 1994

US President Joe Biden speaks on recent mass shootings in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., US, on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Biden urged Congress to pass gun control legislation in a prime-time address as a bipartisan group of lawmakers negotiates a possible agreement following a string of high-profile shootings.
Joe Biden. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty

In the wake of the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history — one of hundreds the country has seen in recent months — President Joe Biden on Thursday offered an urgent plea to Americans: "How much more carnage are we willing to accept?"

In a primetime address to the nation Thursday night — delivered while many Republicans across the country continue to call for increased school security, rather than increased gun regulations — Biden, 79, called on Congress to reinstate a nationwide assault weapons ban and institute a number of other gun reform measures.

Easy access to high-powered guns, the president said, are to blame for the influx in mass shootings and the countless deaths of people at shopping malls, supermarkets, churches and in elementary schools.

"This time," Biden said, "we must actually do something."

Speaking about his recent trip with first lady Jill Biden to Uvalde, Texas — where a gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers last month — Biden said the school was like countless other "everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America."

The survivors and family members of victims of gun violence, Biden said, had one request: "Do something. Just do something. For God's sake, do something."

For more on President Biden's address, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

"After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done," he continued. "This time, that can't be true. This time, we must actually do something."

Noting that he respects "the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners," the president made clear that he doesn't intend to vilify gun owners, nor take away anyone's guns.

But the Second Amendment, he said, "is not absolute."

Citing new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the president said that guns are now "the number one killer of children in the United States of America" — "More than car accidents. More than cancer."

"Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined," he said. "Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns."

The president continued: "For God's sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say 'enough'? Enough."

Biden continued his remarks by calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — one that isn't without precedent, as a similar such ban was passed and signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1994. (That ban expired under President George W. Bush in 2004, and was not renewed by Congress.)

"We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," Biden said Thursday. "And if we can't ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21."

Following the institution of the 1994 ban, Biden said, "mass shootings went down."

"But after Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled," he added. "Those are the facts."

Biden added a litany of other gun reform measures he would like to see, including stronger background checks, safe storage laws and red-flag laws, a repeal of "the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability," and a limit to how many rounds of ammunition a weapon can hold at once.

Biden also proposed addressing "the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence."

"These are rational, commonsense measures," Biden continued, adding a poignant message regarding a Uvalde shooting survivor.

"Imagine being that little girl — that brave little girl in Uvalde who smeared the blood off her murdered friend's body onto her own face to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive," he said. "Imagine — imagine what it would it be like for her to walk down the hallway of any school again."

As Biden noted in closing his remarks, the House of Representatives has already passed some of the key measures he proposed — though many have stalled in Congress.

Now, he said, it's up to the Senate, which is evenly split among Republicans and Democrats — making gun reform an uphill battle.

"For the children we've lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love, let's hear the call and the cry," Biden said, in closing. "Let's meet the moment. Let us finally do something."

To express your opinion on these proposals to your representatives in Congress, you can look them up and contact them here:

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