Biden urges ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines to tackle US gun violence

US president says too many schools and other everyday places had ‘become killing fields’

The United States needs to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines to tackle the carnage of gun violence in the country, president Joe Biden has urged in a primetime address to the American people.

He said if such a ban could not be introduced, the US Congress should raise the age limit for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21 years.

Mr Biden said too many schools and other everyday places had “become killing fields”.

His comments came in the aftermath of a series of mass shootings which saw ten people killed in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York; 19 children and two teachers murdered in a school in Uvalde, Texas and four people shot dead in a gun attack on a doctor’s office in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Just in advance of the president’s speech on Thursday multiple people were shot in a gun attack at a cemetery in Racine, Wisconsin.

In his address on Thursday the president also called for an expansion of federal background checks, the introduction of so-called red flag laws — to allow courts to remove weapons from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others; a repeal of the legal shield against gun manufacturers being sued and new rules on the safe storage of firearms.

Mr Biden described these as “common sense " measures.

“This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights,” Mr Biden said. “It is about protecting children. It is about protecting families. It is about protecting whole communities. It is about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church without being shot and killed.”

“For God sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough?”

The president said that for the last two decades, more school-aged children in the United States had died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military personnel combined.

Mr Biden recalled his visits to the memorials of recent mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo. Fifty-six candles were placed behind him in the White House during his address to represent victims of gun violence in all US states and territories.

Speaking of his visit to the scene of the school shooting in Uvalde last Sunday, the president said: “Standing there in that small town like so many other communities across United States, I couldn’t help but think there are too many other schools, too many other everyday places, that have become killing fields — battlefields — here in United States.”

He said after meeting the families of the victims in Uvalde and Buffalo, the message they had given to him was clear: “Do something.”

“Nothing has been done,” Mr Biden said. “This time that can’t be true. This time we must actually do something.”

“Imagine being that little girl, that brave little girl in Uvalde who smeared blood off her murdered friend’s body on her own face to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive.”

He asked why should ordinary citizens be permitted to purchase an assault weapon “that let’s mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes”.

“The damage was so devastating in Uvalde, parents had to do DNA swabs to identify their children.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent