WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden at an annual meeting with county leaders on Tuesday said there is much more work to be done on gun control legislation — such as banning assault-style weapons, which are typically used in most mass shootings.
The call again for gun control came after a school shooting at Michigan State University late Monday in which three students were killed and five more injured. Tuesday was also the five-year anniversary of the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed.
“It’s a family’s worst nightmare,” Biden said of the Michigan shooting.
“We have to do something to stop gun violence from ripping apart our communities,” he told attendees at the National Association of Counties conference.
In a statement issued prior to his remarks to the county officials, Biden said in the five years since Parkland and during his administration, he brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass a bipartisan gun safety bill, but more needs to be done.
“I once again call on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets,” he said. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to continue to act.”
In another statement, this one on the Michigan State shooting, he said he has offered Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer any federal assistance needed.
“The fact that this shooting took place the night before this country marks five years since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, should cause every American to exclaim ‘enough’ and demand that Congress take action,” he said.
County leaders in D.C.
The National Association of Counties is a non-governmental organization that represents more than 2,300 counties and provides legislative, research, public relations and technical assistance to those members.
The organization is wrapping up a five-day conference of workshops and briefings on federal policy that affects local government such as broadband, the upcoming farm bill, workforce development, public lands, immigration and veterans affairs, among other issues.
Similar to his State of the Union address last week, Biden touched upon his administration’s efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis and the need to allocate more funding for personnel at the border to intercept the drugs, and he mentioned how officials have seized more than 23,000 pounds of fentanyl.
He also pointed to lower gas and fuel costs, and said his administration will continue to lower inflation. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates in order to slow inflation.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday released January’s consumer price index, which measures a broad basket of common goods and services, and reported that inflation rose .05%, with rising costs of shelter, gas and fuel prices. The CPI was up 6.4% from the same period in 2022.
“In contrast, the fruits and vegetables index fell 0.5 percent over the month with the fresh vegetables index declining 2.3 percent,” according to the CPI. “The index for dairy and related products was unchanged in January.”
Biden also took a swipe at Republicans, saying that some wanted to cut and sunset popular social safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
“You may have seen a spirited debate in my State of the Union address,” he said to attendees, adding that he felt like he was “back on a playground.”
“When I call (Republicans) out on this, the State of the Union, it sounded as though they agreed right then and there to take those cuts off the table,” he said. “I sure hope so.”
Republicans have adamantly stated that they have no plans to make cuts to those programs, but the White House cites a proposal by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida to sunset federal programs after five years unless Congress authorizes them.
Biden also acknowledged that he shares concerns with counties about the debt ceiling issue in Congress and how that can affect their budgets. At issue is how a divided Congress will deal with the nation’s borrowing ceiling, known as the debt limit. Congress has until the summer to address it.
“In fact, even coming close to default will raise borrowing costs, (and) make it harder to finance key projects in their communities,” Biden said, referring to lawmakers.
Biden said that he met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and said he wants to lay out his budget, along with McCarthy’s budget, and come to an agreement and avoid defaulting.
He said that he knows there will still be “bumps in the road” but that overall, he is optimistic for the year ahead, as pieces of legislation Congress and the administration worked to pass begin to see implementation in states.
Last year, Biden pitched to NACo members his Build Back Better plan, a massive social spending and climate plan. The Build Back Better plan stalled in Congress but it was later cobbled into the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law last year.
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