Biden says he plans to renew his push for an assault weapons ban

Customers check out AR-15 rifles at a store in Orem, Utah, Thursday, March 25, 2021.

George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON ā€” President Joe Biden said Thursday he would renew his push to ban assault rifles in the wake of a spate of mass shootings that have once again put the spotlight on the nation’s gun control laws.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to a fire station on Thanksgiving morning, the president reiterated his longstanding argument that such weapons are a societal threat and should not be sold.

“The idea that we still allow the purchase of semi-automatic weapons is sick,” he said as he greeted firefighters in Nantucket, where he and his family are spending Thanksgiving. “It has no, no social redemptive value. Zero. None. Not a single argument for it other than profit for the gun manufacturers.”

Congress has proven reluctant to ban AR-15s and other assault rifles. The Democratic-controlled Congress approved the ban in July, in a vote largely along party lines. But the bill has little chance of advancing in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would need to join a united caucus of Democrats to break the deadlock.

Biden was asked if he might push for a ban in Congress, when outgoing lawmakers who don’t face another election might feel freer to lash out at grassroots voters and the well-funded gun lobby.

“I’m going to try,” Biden said. “I’m going to do it whenever Iā€¦” he continued. “I’ll have to make that assessment when I get in and start counting the votes.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden’s comments came two days after a night manager at a Walmart store in Virginia opened fire on his co-workers, killing six and leaving at least half a dozen wounded. The attacker, 31-year-old Andre Bing, committed suicide. Authorities said he used a handgun in the attack.

Mass shootings have occurred with chilling frequency. On Saturday, a gunman killed five people and wounded more than two dozen others at Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs. Bystanders prevented more deaths by confronting and disarming the suspect, who officials identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22. The weapon used was a Colt AR-15-style, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department. Adrian Vasquez.

Flowers, signs, balloons and more are left at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson/medianews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images | Denver Post | Getty Images

The president and first lady Jill Biden called the owners of Club Q on Thursday, according to the White House. They told the two owners, Nic Grzecka and Matthew Haynes, that they were committed to fighting “hate and gun violence,” the White House said.

Biden has a long history of up and down efforts to ban the sale of assault weapons. As a senator from Delaware in 1994, he helped pass an assault weapons ban that was believed to have reduced deaths from mass shootings. The ban expired 10 years later during the administration of President George W. Bush and was never renewed.

Biden promised during his 2020 campaign to ban the sale and manufacture of assault weapons, and in a televised town hall event last month, he reiterated that he would keep that promise.

“By the way, I’m going to get an assault weapons ban,” the president told CNN. “Before this is over, I’m going to get this back. Don’t joke and watch.”

Why Americans are hell-bent on buying AR-15s

With Republicans set to take control of the House of Representatives in 2023, the year-end session could be Biden’s final chance to achieve his 2024 presidential goal.

“I’m going to try to get rid of assault weapons,” Biden said at the fire station.

The first family returned to the Massachusetts island in a tradition that began decades ago when Joe and Jill Biden were still together.

The president and first lady delivered pumpkin pies to the Nantucket firefighters along with their grandson, Beau, who was given a tiny fire helmet to wear.

They also called into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, thanking firefighters and service members and saying their day would be peaceful.

“We’re just going to have dinner with the family, probably go for a walk on the beach and just feel grateful for our family,” Jill Biden said.

Peter Nicholas is a senior political correspondent at NBC News.

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