The White House said Monday that President Joe Biden wants legislators to swiftly approve a bipartisan deal aimed at tightening gun control laws, improving school security and providing more mental health services in the wake of a spate of mass shootings that killed dozens of Americans – many of them young children – with legally obtained, military-grade weapons.
Biden did not comment when reporters asked him Monday if he was satisfied with the proposal brokered Sunday by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans. He said in a Sunday statement that the plan “does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.”
On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that this framework will help the president honor his promise to parents in Uvalde, Texas – where 19 children and two teachers were gunned down May 24 by an attacker wielding an assault rifle inside an elementary school – to “do something.”
“The president is pleased to see this as a step forward,” she said. “As we know, this is about saving lives. And so the president is going to – wants to see – Congress act, he wants to see this on his desk as quickly as possible.”
The deal does not include Biden’s call for a ban on the sale of rapid-fire assault weapons that are often the weapon of choice deployed by mass shooters in the U.S. But Jean-Pierre added that Biden would continue to press for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, plus for expanded background checks ahead of firearms purchases and for the confirmation of his nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The National Rifle Association said it “does not take positions on ‘frameworks.’ We will make our position known when the full text of the bill is available for review.”
Any gun control measures are likely to draw the ire of the deep-pocketed group. Their legislative pressure group described a recent House bill as “unconstitutional legislation” that “threatens to turn millions of law-abiding gun owners into felons, as well as subject their lawfully-acquired firearms to government confiscation without due process.”
The bill they were referring to, among other things, establishes a minimum age of 21 for purchases of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. It also includes mandatory home storage requirements for firearms, which the NRA argues are unconstitutional.
Matt Valentine, a scholar and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin who focuses on gun violence policy, told VOA that while three of the nation’s gun control advocacy groups approve of the proposal, “many of my contacts in the gun violence prevention community are underwhelmed.”
Prominent Democrats have said that this effort is but a first step, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying Monday: “Altogether, this framework is a good and necessary first step towards changing the reality of gun violence in America. It will lay the foundation for future action.”
But, Valentine said, this proposal could also give ammunition to Republican politicians looking to muster support in midterm elections later this year.
“In some ways, this Senate package could be an election-year boon for gun-friendly politicians in red states, because it will give them something to fight against,” he said. “Over the past few years, several states have passed ‘constitutional carry’ laws, which put gun rights activists in the position of the proverbial dog that caught the car. Having achieved almost total deregulation of firearms, gun rights activists in these states have been left in the awkward position of having nothing left to fight for. This proposed federal legislation will give them something to fight against.”
Legislators in the U.S. have battled for years to reform gun laws, with Democrats almost universally supporting tighter controls and Republicans opposing them by arguing that any such moves threaten the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
“My worry,” Valentine said, “is that by the time this legislation makes it to President Biden’s desk, the red flag provisions will be watered down and filled with loopholes and caveats that make them less effective.”
Lawmakers have spent almost a month negotiating this deal in the aftermath of three shocking mass killings in Texas, New York and Oklahoma. But gun violence kills Americans on a daily basis – on Monday, according to the independent Gun Violence Archive, 12 Americans died this way, in separate incidents around the country.
In 2022 so far, the group has documented 19,618 gun-related deaths. Of those, 744 of the victims were children.