The president has made gun control a focus of his time in the White House. Biden successfully ushered the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act through Congress before the 2022 midterm election. However, the final bill omitted several of the president’s proposals, including reinstating 1994’s ban on assault-style weapons, and a split Congress makes it extremely unlikely that Biden can pass another bill before 2024.
On Saturday, a 21-year-old white gunman shot and killed three black individuals and then himself at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida. Security footage showed him trying to enter buildings at nearby Edwards Jackson University, a historically black university, just before the shooting.
Still, Biden chose to focus his initial response to the tragedy more on the shooter’s violent extremism than on reiterating calls to increase gun control measures, as he frequently does in response to mass shootings.
“Even as we continue searching for answers, we must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America,” the president wrote. “We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor. Silence is complicity and we must not remain silent.”
“The bottom line is that a lot’s happening. Things that you didn’t think would be happening today around the anniversary of 60 years after the March [on Washington],” Biden added during a meeting with family members of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the White House on Monday. “I’ve said to the country, you can’t let hate prevail, and it’s on the rise, not diminishing.”
“I made clear in my inaugural address, white supremacy is a poison. It’s a poison. It’s been allowed to grow faster and faster in our communities, to the point where the intelligence community has determined — U.S. intelligence community has determined that domestic terrorism, looting, and white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat we face in the home. The greatest threat. We have to act,” he reiterated during a second civil rights event at the White House on Monday evening. “We’ll call it out, and we’ll call it for what it is. While we know tragedy can’t be forever overcome or fully understood, there are certain things that we do know. With your help, I signed the most significant gun violence law in nearly 30 years, but we must not stop until we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed Biden’s comments during Monday’s press briefing, firmly declaring that “white supremacy has no place in America.”
“As the president said in his statement yesterday, we must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store or Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin. Hate must have no safe harbor,” she continued. “Silence is complicity, and we must not remain silent, and we must continue to do all we can to keep guns out of dangerous hands.”
The president has spent the past several months focusing his reelection hopes on a nationwide “Bidenomics” push. Biden’s economic polling remains underwater, but the campaign hopes that a new focus on “relational organizing,” combined with the gradual implementation of Biden’s core spending packages, will help sell voters on Biden’s economic agenda.
However, the Biden campaign says the president will also soon start leaning more heavily into gun violence on the trail and that the violent extremism characterizing many of the recent mass shootings across the country runs “deeper than just guns.” In that sense, standing up in opposition to “hate and vitriol” marks a “through line” with his 2020 presidential campaign, where he urged voters to reject former President Donald Trump’s MAGA agenda in order to save the “soul of the nation,” according to Biden campaign officials.
“We’re absolutely campaigning on gun violence,” one campaign official confirmed to the Washington Examiner, despite the uphill battle toward legislating Biden’s gun violence proposals and stressed that federal action on gun violence is a top voting issue for young people.
Pressed on how a split Congress would make passing new gun violence legislation virtually impossible, a Biden campaign official responded that “the whole idea of Joe Biden’s political operation is to build not just for him” but also down-ballot candidates.
That person claimed that Biden’s inability to pass abortion, voting rights, and his desired gun violence proposals didn’t represent a failure of governance but instead highlighted the urge to elect more Democrats to Congress.
“We understand the numbers,” that person added. “That’s why ‘finishing the job’ is going to be a core component of the president’s message.”