Gun safety advocates are pushing US President Joe Biden to take stronger action of his own to curb gun violence after the Texas elementary school shooting, but the White House it is holding Congress accountable for passing laws that would have a greater impact.
The White House has spoken with gun safety groups since Tuesday’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 elementary students and two teachers were killed, the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.
Groups urge Biden to make emergency declaration on gun violence, appoint gun violence czar, advocate lifting Senate filibuster if necessary, and issue executive order on background checks for gun purchases of fire if legislators do not pass legislation that closes the loopholes in the current law.
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At the moment, the Biden administration is pushing Congress to pass tougher gun laws that may have a more lasting impact than executive action. The White House has been in contact with top Democrats in Congress regarding the next steps on gun laws.
Democratic-backed bills requiring background checks, banning semi-automatic rifles and strengthening gun safety measures have failed for a decade in Congress in the face of staunch Republican opposition and objections from some Democrats. moderate and independent. Gun rights advocates believe in a broad interpretation of US constitutional protections for keeping and bearing arms.
Democrats in Congress said Wednesday they would try the legislation again.
“The plan is to work hard for a compromise over the next 10 days,” said Senator Chris Murphy. “Hopefully we are successful and the Senate can vote on a bipartisan bill that saves lives.”
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After the Texas gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to kill students and teachers before he was killed, many gun safety activists demanded more urgency from the White House.
“President Biden is not doing enough,” David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting said Wednesday.
The White House has said it was looking at every tool at its disposal to stop gun violence, including executive action, but stressed that Biden needed the legislature’s help.
“It’s time for Congress to act,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who was questioned by reporters about what the administration was doing on the issue. “The president cannot do this alone.”
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Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration has taken several steps without Congress. They include requiring that “ghost guns,” which are often assembled from kits, be regulated in the same way as traditional firearms and launching a task force aimed at cracking down on illegal firearms trafficking. in major cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
Gun safety advocates say there is more the president can do alone.
“You should declare gun violence a public health emergency,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady, a gun violence advocacy group. “We need to address this in a way that prevents violence from happening in the first place and not walk away from it because it’s a public health emergency involving guns.”
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A declaration of national emergency gives the president additional legal powers to address a crisis. The White House says that Biden has already called it an emergency and that a legal invocation would not lead to the necessary authorities to address gun violence.
Brown said if the Senate doesn’t pass the gun safety measures being considered, Democrats should lift the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes in the 100-member body to pass the legislation. Biden, a former US senator, has been largely reluctant to advocate such a change to pass his political agenda.
Po Murray, who chairs the grassroots group Newtown Action Alliance, said the White House needs a gun violence prevention office. “We appreciate that (national policy council director) Susan Rice is tasked with addressing this issue, but we feel we need someone who can spend 100% of their time doing this job,” Murray said.
“Given that we elected a gun safety president, he could certainly do more,” he said.
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Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, a gun violence protection group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, said the White House should write an executive order on background checks if a bill doesn’t pass.
It could be used to mandate that anyone who sells as few as two guns a year must become a federal firearms licensee and undergo background checks, he said.
“The administration needs to make protection from gun violence a government priority, not just a political one,” Ambler said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Joey Roulette; editing by Heather Timmons, Jonathan Oatis, and Cynthia Osterman)