Joe Biden said he will push to ban assault weapons if elected president in 2020 -- a pledge that comes as the nation debates how to curb gun violence following two deadly mass shootings that killed more than 30 people in Ohio and Texas.
The former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate declared in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Sunday that the United States has a "huge problem with guns," and that assault weapons, which he defined as "military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly," are a threat to US national security.
"If we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won't just be a political failure. It will be a moral one. It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy," Biden wrote. "That we are desensitized to children running from schools and bodies littering parking lots, that our outpouring of thoughts and prayers will grow increasingly hollow."
The 2020 presidential candidate also wrote that anyone who "pretends there's nothing we can do is lying" and that holding that view should be "disqualifying" for those seeking the White House.
"There is so much we can do -- practical, sensible steps that draw broad support among the American people," he said, also writing that there is "overwhelming data" that shootings committed with assault weapons result in more deaths than shootings committee with other kinds of guns.
Earlier this month, 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, when a shooter opened fire at a Walmart. Just hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, a shooter killed 9 people in 30 seconds with an assault-style rifle, according to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl .
In 1994, Biden and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein led the effort to enact a law banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for 10 years. Biden wrote in his op-ed published Sunday that in 2004 he tried to extend the bans before they expired, but failed. The National Rifle Association and gun manufactures, he said, had put the Republican Party in a "headlock."
Following the weekend shootings, Biden told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he would push for a federal gun buyback program in an attempt to take more weapons off the streets. He said he supports universal background checks, and said assault weapons "should be illegal. Period."
Asked in the interview about criticism that if elected president he would take away people's guns, Biden responded, "Bingo! You're right if you have an assault weapon." He said the Second Amendment doesn't say the government can't restrict what kind of weapons people can own -- "You can't buy a bazooka, you can't have a flame thrower," he told Cooper.
Biden doubled down on his support for gun legislation in the op-ed, writing that his administration would "get universal background checks passed" and build on the Brady Bill, which established the background check system, which Biden noted he helped pass through Congress in 1993.