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Biden says he’ll renew push for assault weapons ban following spate of mass shootings

Customers look at AR-15 rifles at a store in Orem, Utah, on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday he would make a renewed effort to enact a ban on assault-style rifles following a wave of mass shootings that have again put a 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 menace and should not be sold.

“The idea that we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick,” he said while greeting firefighters in Nantucket, where he and his family are spending the Thanksgiving holiday. “It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturers.”

Congress has proved reluctant to outlaw AR-15s and other assault-style guns. The Democratic-controlled House passed a ban in July, in a vote largely along party lines. But the bill stands little chance of advancing in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would need to join a unified Democratic caucus to break a filibuster.

Biden was asked if he might press for a ban in the congressional lame duck session, when outgoing lawmakers who aren’t facing another election might feel freer to break with base voters and the well-funded gun lobby.

“I’m going to try,” Biden said. “I’m going to do it whenever I …” he continued. “I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes.”

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

Biden’s remarks 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 a half dozen others wounded. The shooter, identified as 31-year-old Andre Bing, took his own life. Authorities said he used a handgun in the attack.

Mass shootings have been taking place with chilling frequency. On Saturday, a gunman killed five people and injured more than two dozen others at Club Q, a LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs. Patrons prevented more deaths by confronting and disarming the suspect, identified by officials as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22. The weapon used was in the style of a Colt AR-15, according to Colorado Springs Police Chief 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 on Thursday phoned Club Q’s owners, according to the White House. They told the two owners, Nic Grzecka and Matthew Haynes, that they are committed to combatting “hate and gun violence,” the White House said.

Biden has a long history with the up-and-down efforts to prohibit the sale of assault-style weapons. As a senator from Delaware in 1994, he helped usher in an assault weapons ban that was credited with curbing 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 outlaw the sale and manufacture of assault weapons, and in a televised town hall event last month, reiterated that he would make good on that pledge.

“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 that again. Not a joke, and watch.”

With Republicans set to take control of the House in 2023, the year-end lame duck session may be a final opportunity for Biden to fulfill his goal before the 2024 presidential election.

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

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

The president and the first lady delivered pumpkin pies to the firefighters in Nantucket, accompanied by 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, offering their thanks to firefighters and service members, and said their day would be a quiet one.

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

Peter Nicholas is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

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