WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden renewed his call for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, singling out the two assault-style weapons a suspect allegedly used Monday to kill three children and three staff members at a Nashville school.
“It’s heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare,” Biden said. “We have to do more to stop gun violence. It’s ripping our communities apart, ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons.”
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Biden called the shooting “sick” and applauded the swift response of Nashville law enforcement to take down the shooter. He noted that the suspect, identified late Monday afternoon as a 28-year-old transgender man, had two “assault-type” weapons – which he wants Congress to ban – in addition to a pistol, according to Nashville police.
“So, I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban. It’s about time that we start to make some more progress.”
Three students and three staff members were killed after the shooter opened fire at The Covenant School, a small private Christian elementary school in Nashville early Monday, according to local authorities. Police officers engaged and killed the shooter.
Officials identified the suspect as 28-year-old Audrey Hale of Nashville. Police found a manifesto and maps of the school at the suspect’s home but said they weren’t ready to provide a possible motive.
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Biden’s push to reenact a ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, has gained no traction in the Republican-led House and even faces an uphill climb in the Democratic-controlled Senate despite a series of gun shootings nationally.
First lady Jill Biden said “our children deserve better” as she responded to the shooting while addressing a National League of Cities event in Washington.
“I am truly without words,” she said. “We stand, all of us, we stand with Nashville in prayer.”
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The White House is in communication with the Justice Department and Nashville officials, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre cited executive actions Biden has taken on guns but said “it’s not enough,” pointing to the president’s calls for Congress to ban assault weapons and close gun background check loopholes, neither of which have advanced amid Republican resistance in Congress.
“We must do more. And he wants Congress to act because enough is enough. How many more children have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress will step up and act?”
Last year, amid calls for gun reform after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, Congress approved bipartisan legislation more modest in scope that provided incentives for states to adopt red-flag gun laws and enhanced background checks on young buyers.
Biden has reverted to executive action smaller in scale given the dim prospects for the assault weapons ban in Congress.
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Earlier this month, Biden signed an executive order that seeks to increase the number of background checks conducted during gun sales. The order stops short of requiring universal background checks, instead directing Attorney General Merrick Garland to clarify what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling firearms.
Federal law requires that individuals in the business of selling guns be federally licensed and therefore check the backgrounds of buyers. Under the order, Garland will use his discretion to ensure gun sellers “willfully violating the law” and those unaware of background requirements become compliant.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After Nashville shooting, Biden renews call to ban assault weapons