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President Joe Biden has reiterated his belief that America must reinstitute an assault weapons ban after an AR-15 was used in a mass shooting once again; this time, in the attack on a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs.
The president issued a statement on Sunday decrying the violence as “senseless” and adding that while police had yet to officially name a motive for the suspect’s rampage, it was clear that LGBT+ establishments and individual Americans were facing a wave of renewed hate from the far right.
“Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never be turned into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often. We must drive out the inequities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate,” said the president.
“Today, yet another community in America has been torn apart by gun violence,” Mr Biden continued. “More families left with an empty chair at the table and hole in their lives that cannot be filled. When will we decide we’ve had enough?
“We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms. Earlier this year, I signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly three decades, in addition to taking other historic actions. But we must do more. We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets.”
Mr Biden was in the Senate when the last assault weapons ban passed, in 1994. At the time the legislation was widely popular, but thanks to a decades-long campaign by the gun lobby conservative opposition to any kind of restrictions on any sort of gun ownership, be it increased background checks or bans on specific weapons, has grown steadily for years.
As a result, the legislation expired in 2004. Subsequent attempts to reauthorise the ban during the Obama administration failed, while former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies opposed any federal gun legislation reform efforts during their years in power. A 2017 massacre in Parkland, Florida at a high school resulted in a largely-for-show bill addressing school safety being signed into law.
Earlier this year, the president was able to tout the first progress on the issue in years when he signed into law a bill expanding background checks for 18-21 year olds and provided grants for states to pass so-called “red flag laws”.
But the larger pieces of the Democrats’ gun control platform remain firmly out of reach, thanks to the party’s 50-50 majority in the Senate and soon-to-be minority in the US House of Representatives.