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Biden Steps Up Push for Action on Guns With Prime-Time Address

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will urge Congress to pass gun control legislation in a prime-time address from the White House on Thursday, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers negotiates a possible agreement following a string of high-profile shootings.

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“The president will deliver remarks on the recent tragic mass shootings and the need for Congress to act to pass commonsense laws to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is taking lives every day,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Washington to a nation once again traumatized by horrific gun violence. Last week, a teenager killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas, and on Wednesday, a man killed two doctors and two other staff at a medical office in Oklahoma with a semiautomatic military-style rifle he bought the same day, the Associated Press reported.

Also on Wednesday, a grand jury indicted an 18-year-old man accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York grocery store last month for a “domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate.”

Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who has led congressional negotiations, said earlier Thursday that between six and eight Senate Republicans had engaged in conversations on gun control and he hoped to produce a framework agreement by next week that includes funding for mental health initiatives, so-called red flag laws that allow judges to bar certain individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others from purchasing firearms, and background checks.

“We’re talking about a bill that will make a difference, it will save lives,” Murphy told MSNBC.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who has voted against stronger gun controls, including expanded background checks -- said he was “hopeful and optimistic” an agreement could be reached on a federal legislative response during a luncheon in his home state of Kentucky on Thursday.

“We’re working, hoping to come up with a bipartisan agreement so we can pass something at the federal level that will actually target this problem,” McConnell said, adding that legislation must be “consistent with the Constitution and the culture of most of our country.”

McConnell said he hoped the deal would include mental health and school safety provisions. Ten Republicans would need to join Democrats on the legislation to overcome a likely GOP filibuster.

Biden said earlier in the week that he planned to meet with lawmakers in Congress on gun violence, telling reporters that many instances were “preventable.”

“There’s an awful lot of suffering,” Biden said.

The White House has called for a bill that would increase background checks and restrict assault weapons as well as high-capacity magazines, though Republicans have ruled out sweeping new restrictions on gun purchases. Aides to Biden have said that there is little he can do through executive action to address guns, and that the White House has held numerous calls with lawmakers on the issue in recent days.

(Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.)

(Updates with McConnell remarks beginning in the seventh paragraph.)

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