A week after 19 children were shot dead by a gunman in their school, Biden proposed several laws, including a ban on assault weapons, which was allowed to lapse under a Republican administration in 2004.
Other proposals included a limit on high capacity magazines, secure storage laws, “red flag” laws, universal background checks, and the removal of protection laws for gun manufacturers.
“It’s time to act,” Biden said from the White House. “For the children we have lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. It’s time to act.”
The speech, broadcast during primetime in the US, followed a series of mass shootings across the country in the past three weeks, in which men with guns have killed Black people in Buffalo, schoolchildren in Uvalde and doctors in Tulsa.
Peppering his speech with declarations of “enough”, Biden said too many places in the US had become “killing fields”, and urged Republicans in the Senate to back changes to legislation that would make the country safer for everyone.
Alluding to the mid-term elections later this year, he said gun control was a matter of “common sense” and stressed that the Second Amendment, which gun proponents use to curb regulation, was not absolute, Al Jazeera reported.
While Democrats currently control the House of Representatives, the Senate is split with each party holding 50 seats. For any legislation to pass, and to avoid the filibuster, 10 Republican Senators would need to vote in favor of it.
In a statement in response to Biden’s speech, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful lobby group that provides financial support to some politicians, said the president’s proposals were not the kind of “functional measures and real solutions” that would reduce crime and help those with “dangerous behavioral health issues”.
Republicans and some Democrats have blocked tougher gun regulation even after horrific mass shootings such as the murder of 20 young children at a primary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012.