WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to meet with lawmakers about gun control legislation, while aides said the administration is researching additional executive actions he might take in the aftermath of last week’s deadly massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
“I will meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you,” Biden said Tuesday as he welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the White House.
White House officials are examining what additional actions Biden could take unilaterally – but fear he may have already exhausted all available options, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Before the Texas shooting, Biden placed additional restrictions on so-called ghost guns that are sold in kits and assembled by consumers, as well as pistol-stabilizing braces that can make handguns handle more like rifles.
Gun control advocacy groups have said Biden could do more through regulation to limit the sale of firearms, though the impact on mass shootings is likely to be minimal. Biden wants lawmakers to take a vote on legislation banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Jean-Pierre said.
Biden told reporters Monday he hadn’t opened negotiations with GOP lawmakers on the issue, but he believed there was a chance to strike a compromise with “rational Republicans,” including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
But on Tuesday, the White House said that Biden disagreed with McConnell’s assessment that mental illness and school safety were at the root of the issue – and declined to detail any specific plans for conversations with lawmakers. Biden does not support legislation hardening schools, as some Republicans have proposed, Jean-Pierre said.
The White House has said it’s allowing congressional leaders to dictate the pace and framework of talks after the shooting – which killed 19 children and two teachers – prompted renewed calls for legislative action on gun control.
Democrats in Congress have repeatedly tried and failed to strengthen federal gun laws.
Biden said he wanted to speak with Ardern about her meetings with major technology companies aimed at curbing extremist content online following a 2019 mass shooting at a pair of mosques in Christchurch.
Ardern said she discussed a range of topics with Biden, including reforms technology giants can make to reduce harmful content, such as changing algorithms. They discussed the Christchurch Call to Action, a 2019 summit Ardern initiated that aimed to find ways to curb violent extremism online.
“I want to work with you on that effort, and I want to talk to you about what those conversations were like,” Biden said during a portion of the Oval Office meeting held in front of press, later adding: “The work you’re doing with tech companies is really important.”
New Zealand also enacted a series of gun control measures after the 2019 shooting, restricting semi-automatic firearms and magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds.
Ardern expressed condolences for the mass shooting in Texas and one earlier this month in Buffalo, New York. “Our experience, of course, in this regard is our own. And if there’s anything we can share that would be of any value, we are here to share it,” she told Biden.
A senior Biden administration official said Ardern did not urge a specific course of action on gun control.
Biden said there had been “an awful lot of suffering” in the US, much of it preventable.
“I’ve been to more mass shooting aftermaths than I think any president in American history, unfortunately, and it’s – so much of it, much of it is preventable and the devastation is amazing,” he said.
(Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.)
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