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Biden Concedes: He Is Powerless to Act on Guns Without Congress

Written by on April 24, 2023

President Joe Biden recently declared himself powerless to respond to the issue of gun violence in America. This came a day after six people, including three children, were killed at a school in Nashville. The president, in a remarkably blunt admission, said he had gone the full extent of his executive authority to prevent mass shootings. He stated that the senators and representatives who have so far refused to act should be held accountable for inaction, even with the Democrats having majorities in both houses of Congress during his first two years in office. Despite their efforts, they were unable to pass an assault weapons ban, and any effort now is almost certain to fail in the Republican-controlled House.

There is an alleged ongoing investigation of the tragedy, and Republicans stated that with respect to any discussion of legislation, it is premature. This statement is amidst Democrats’ renewed calls for passing gun safety legislation, with Republicans making it clear they were not willing to budge from their opposition to assault weapons bans and other aggressive measures.

Other members of the Republican party used the gender of the assailant, who authorities said identified as transgender, as a way to shift the conversation away from gun safety measures. This suggests that there is little agreement across party lines when it comes to gun violence in America.

There is a deep frustration among many Americans, and Mayor Quinton Lucas said the president’s comments echo this frustration. The reality of school shootings in America is such that some community leaders have given up trying to prevent them.

Mr. Biden’s acknowledgment of his powerlessness is not unlike the kind of private assessment that Lyndon Baines Johnson once gave to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in private about his lack of power to pass voting rights legislation. According to a presidential historian, Mr. Updegrove, Mr. Johnson told Dr. King flatly in 1964 that he didn’t have the power to get the bill through Congress.

The president has reminded reporters that he led the successful effort in 1994 to pass a ban on assault weapons as a way to reduce the use of “weapons of war” in shootings at schools, shopping malls, and elsewhere. Since then, however, Washington has refused to reinstate the ban and has largely failed to pass significant new restrictions on the sale, manufacture, or distribution of firearms. Modest bipartisan legislation passed last year, and signed into law by Mr. Biden offered incentives to local governments to set up red flag laws and made minor changes to background check laws.

It is evident that the issue of what to do about gun violence in America is highly politicized, and there is no clear agreement on the best course of action. Mr. Biden’s admission of his powerlessness has highlighted the need for both sides to work together to find a solution. It is unlikely that there will be any progress without cooperation, and it is therefore incumbent upon the senators and representatives to act in the interest of the people they represent.


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