Assault weapons are a “threat to national security,” and those who say nothing can be done about them are not qualified to lead the country, said former vice president Joe Biden.
Biden—the front-runner by several polls in the Democratic presidential nomination—joined other candidates in seizing gun control as a defining issue in the battle to unseat President Donald Trump.
Writing in The New York Times op-ed section, Biden stated that a 1994 ban of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (measures he said he led to enact with Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein) resulted in fewer mass shootings during the ten-year period of the law, which expired in 2004.
“Assault weapons…are a threat to our national security,” Biden wrote. “Anyone who pretends there’s nothing we can do is lying—and holding that view should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to lead our country.”
Politico reported on how the Democratic presidential candidates are discussing the relationship between gun violence and Trump’s actions:
In the wake of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas—the latter of which was tied to a suspect whose anti-immigrant sentiments led to the killing of 22 people—candidates are road-testing a withering argument that draws a direct line between gun violence and the president’s racist rhetoric.
“We are living with a toxic brew of two different things, each of which is claiming lives and each of which represents a national security emergency in this country,” said South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg at an Iowa forum on gun violence Saturday.
“One of them is the ready availability of guns and the way they can fall into the wrong hands. The other is the rise of hate. And when they come into contact with each other, it is deadly.”
White House hopefuls’ case for gun control veered further from prior calls for additional regulations and steered more toward consequences of Trump’s role in fueling violent white nationalism, said Politico.
Several Democratic candidates were blunter in their statements of the president and his actions, with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke—among others—describing “Trump a white supremacist,” added Politico.
“Democrats this year, more so than during the last presidential election,” said the news outlet, “have been buoyed on gun control by gains in statehouses last year, by an internal weakening of the NRA and by a groundswell of youth activism following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.”
Biden said he’d go up a notch on gun laws in The Times op-ed. “I’ll get universal background checks passed, building on the Brady Bill, which establishing the background check system and which I helped push through Congress in 1993.”
The former vice president added that he’ll “accelerate the development and deployment” of smart-gun technology.
He also criticized Trump over a recent statement involving mental health and guns.
“Republican leaders try to prevent action and parrot N.R.A. messaging—as Donald Trump did last week when he said, ‘Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,’” said Biden.
“If we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won’t just be a political failure,” said the former vice president. “It will be a moral one. It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy.”
The claim by others, such as former president Bill Clinton, that the 1994 ban led to a “big drop” in gun deaths has been challenged by The Washington Post fact-checker.
Enactment of extensive gun control faces a variety of competing interests and obstacles, said The Hill, in an article that singled out five factors influencing the politics of the issue: public attitudes or opinions, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the National Rifle Association, calls for impeachment of Trump, and the time lag between tragic incidents and congressional action.