WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland met Monday with key municipal and law enforcement officials about a seemingly intractable American problem: the soaring number of gun crimes.
By various tabulations, 2021 could be the deadliest year for gun violence in the U.S. in two decades. Already this year, more than 10,700 people have been killed in shootings, according to a tabulation by the Gun Violence Archive, some accidentally but many in homicides, robberies and in highly publicized mass shootings such as attacks that occurred at a grocery store, massage spas and a package shipping warehouse.
Biden has called gun violence in the U.S. “an epidemic” and “an international embarrassment,” but he has been powerless to stop it.
“While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, we know there are some things that work. And the first of those that work is stemming the flow of firearms,” Biden said at the start of Monday’s meeting.
He has called for Senate passage of two gun control measures already approved by the House of Representatives.
One of the House-passed measures would close a longstanding loophole in gun laws by expanding background checks to those purchasing weapons over the internet, at gun shows and through some private transactions. The other would give officials 10 business days, instead of the current three, to make background checks on gun purchasers.
But the politically divided Senate, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, has yet to act, and it is unclear that the Democratic bloc, along with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, will be able to muster enough votes to approve any legislation restricting gun use. Only a handful of Republicans in the House supported the tighter controls.
Biden has also authorized some tighter gun restrictions with an executive order and called for renewal of a long-expired ban on the sale of assault weapons. But the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to gun ownership and any suggestions of new restrictions often draw quick opposition from gun owners.
In the U.S., conservative lawmakers especially oppose tightening the gun laws, while more liberal lawmakers, although not all, often favor new restrictions on gun sales.
Biden and Garland are meeting with Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, California, and Eric Adams, likely the next New York mayor, along with top police officials from four cities.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that on average, 316 people are shot every day in the U.S., with 106 dying. Among the total, the group says there are 39 murders and 64 suicides.