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Biden says Second Amendment is ‘not absolute’ in call to reinstate assault weapons ban

President Biden said the Second Amendment is “not absolute” in a speech Thursday following a wave of mass shootings across the nation, pleading with to Congress to pass what he called “commonsense” gun control legislation, including reinstating an assault weapons ban, requiring background checks, and limiting magazine capacity.

The president, speaking from the Cross Hall of the White House, told Americans that the issue of restricting access to guns “is one of conscience and common sense.” 

“For so many of you at home, I want to be very clear – this is not about taking away anyone’s guns,” the president said. “It is not about vilifying gun owners. In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave.” 

“I respect the culture, the tradition, the concerns of lawful gun owners,” Biden continued. “At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute.” 

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

The president’s remarks come after a wave of mass shootings in recent weeks in Oklahoma, Texas, and New York.

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On Wednesday, a gunman killed four and then himself at the Natalie Medical Building at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla.

Last week, alleged gunman Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

A vigil in the center of Uvalde, Texas honoring the 19 students and 2 teachers shot in the deadly mass shooting.

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And in May, officials say 18-year-old Payton Gendron allegedly opened fire at a Tops Friendly Market store in Buffalo, New York killing 10 people and wounding at least three others. Eleven of the victims were Black individuals, while the remaining two victims were White, authorities have said.

The president, pointing to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said guns are “the number one killer of children in the United States of America.” 

“The number one killer —more than car accidents, more than cancer,” Biden said. “Over the last two decades, more school children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined.” 

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“Think about that,” Biden said. “More kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns.” 

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

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. Multiple people were shot at the Tops Friendly Market. Police have notified the public that the alleged shooter was in custody.

“I know that we can’t prevent every tragedy, but here’s what I believe we have to do,” Biden said, laying out his proposal to Congress. 

“We need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21; strengthen background checks; enact safe storage and red flag laws; repeal the immunity, that protect gun manufacturers from liability; address the mental health crisis, deepening the trauma of gun violence,” the president said. 

Biden called these proposals “rational, commonsense measures.” 

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The president has been calling on Congress for months to take up gun control legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales, ban the sale and possession of unserialized firearms, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and repeal gun manufacturers’ protection from liability.

Biden’s 2023 budget proposal called on Congress to deliver funding to implement his comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime and make communities safer.

“This time, we have to take the time to do something,” the president said. “This time, it’s time for the Senate to do something, but, as we know, in order to get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators.” 

Biden said he supports the bipartisan efforts that include a “small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way.” 

“But my God, the fact is the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote,” Biden said, slamming Republicans. “I find unconscionable. We can’t fail the American people again.” 

The president said he has “been in this fight” of gun control “for a long time.” 

“I know how hard it is, but I’ll never give up,” Biden said. “And if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up either.” 

Pointing to the 2022 Midterm Elections, Biden said that he believes “the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.” 

“Enough, enough. enough,” Biden said. 

Biden’s address comes as Congress is debating the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” an expansive piece of gun control legislation that Democrats argue is common sense, while Republicans say it is unconstitutional.

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The “Protecting Our Kids Act” Is a package of eight bills aimed at suppressing gun ownership.

The bills contain proposals to raise the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21, a ban on “high capacity magazines,” a registry for bump stocks, and more.

Law enforcement personnel run away from the scene of a suspected shooting near Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022.  REUTERS/Marco Bello

In a House committee meeting Thursday, Democrats railed against the NRA, Republicans, assault weapons and the Senate as they expressed outrage that the U.S. doesn’t have tighter gun laws despite mass shootings in recent years. 

“The NRA has too much of a grip on this Congress and on the Senate, it needs to stop,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said as the House Judiciary Committee prepared the package of gun-related bills for a vote next week. “There’s something gun-crazed about our country that we need to deal with.”

The legislation will likely see a vote on the House floor next week, along with a bill on red flag laws. 

Republicans, meanwhile, argued that Democrats are not taking into account mental health and other factors that cause shootings. “Any time we address gun violence, we should also address the state of affairs of our society, address crime and mental health,” Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., said. “We must also address the family unit.”

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But House-passed gun bills will have a very difficult time making it through the Senate, where the 60-vote filibuster threshold gives Republicans a say on any legislation. 

There, around a dozen senators from both parties are participating in talks about potential legislation that would be significantly less far-reaching than anything to come from the House. Among the issues on the table are federal legislation to encourage states to pass red flag laws and expansion of background checks. 

Fox News’ Tyler Olson, Louis Casiano, and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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