Biden addresses gun violence in prime-time speech

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


On Thursday evening, President Joe Biden took to the airwaves to request more restrictions on gun ownership while also insisting that he supported the right to responsible gun ownership.

In a speech from the White House, Biden returned to what has become, of late, a habit of invoking the name of God to drive home his points.

“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?’” Biden said.

This was one of four times in the speech that Biden used some version of “for God’s sake” or “in God’s name.”

The president also used the word enough 12 times and the word imagine eight times, which indicates either he or his speech writers hoped the words could serve as a means of placing rhetorical emphasis in a way that highlighted Biden’s commitment. However, the president seemed to amble away from the approach at various times.  

In a speech that was home to several misspeaks and restarts, the president insisted that the Second Amendment was not absolute, and that it was time for Congress to act in ways that he believes will prevent future mass shootings.   

 “I want to be very clear: This is not about taking away anyone’s guns,” Biden said. “It’s …. 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 and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners.”

The president then attempted to quote the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. After several flubs, Biden communicated that Scalia had ruled that there were some limitations to the Second Amendment.

“[The] rights granted by the Second Amendment are ‘not unlimited,’” Biden said. “Not unlimited.  It never has been.”

Scalia, whose judicial record is explained in far better detail in this 2018 University of Cincinnati Law Review article, supported Americans’ right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense but also ruled that it was within the federal government’s purview to limit certain types of firearms.

The meat of the president’s argument was a call for what he called “common sense” gun restrictions, which he identified as a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, enhanced background checks, expanding legislation that would help track and identify guns, additional storage laws, the expansion of the law to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for acts committed with their firearms, and addressing “the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence.”

He also spoke about the need for “red flag” laws that would more easily allow guns to be taken from those a judge determines is either a danger to others or themself.

Biden said that if an assault weapon ban was not possible, he’d support raising the age to purchase such weapons from 18 to 21.

“It’s time for each of us to do our part,” Biden said. “It’s time to act.”

Most Republicans have indicated they want to negotiate a mutually agreeable piece of legislation that will pass both the House and Senate, and will in some way address mass shootings.

Of all the demands the president had for Congress, the assault weapons ban and the assigning of liability to gun manufacturers were the ones most likely to prove divisive. In fact, immediately following the speech many conservatives blasted Biden for what pundit Todd Starnes called a “declaration of war on the Second Amendment.”

The president specifically requested the return of a 1994 assault weapon ban that expired in 2004, an act he said led to a low period for violent crime.

Biden also compared gun manufacturers to the tobacco industry, companies which were sued in the 1990s for, among other things, misrepresenting the danger tobacco poses to one’s health. The president did not flesh out his rationale on this comparison. He stated only, “[Imagine] if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued — where we’d be today.  The gun industry’s special protections are outrageous.”

Gun manufacturers do not have a history of calling firearms safe or advocating for reckless use of weaponry. Quite the opposite, gun manufacturers and gun-rights organizations have long stressed the danger of firearms and the importance of responsible gun ownership.