Gun reform makes appearance at Biden’s first State of the Union
President Joe Biden calls for measures to reduce firearm violence
Urging Congress to pass “commonsense gun violence legislation that will save lives,” on Tuesday night during the first State of the Union address of his term, President Joe Biden directly acknowledged the increase in gun violence.
Biden issued direct pleas to the country’s legislative body to put measures in place to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He also proposed passing universal background checks and a waiting period to get a license to purchase a weapon.
I’m calling on Congress to:— President Biden (@POTUS) March 2, 2022
– Pass universal background checks
– Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
– Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry that can’t be sued
These laws don’t infringe on the Second Amendment. They save lives.
“I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon? Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
Biden received plaudits from his party for his remarks, who said the time for gun reform “is now.”
Thankful for @potus speaking on meaningful ways to reduce gun violence, such as passing universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We need these measures now. #SOTU— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) March 2, 2022
The President also sharply criticized the liability shield, which he claimed makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued. While not technically true, gun manufacturers have increased legal protections from being held liable for injuries caused by criminal misuse of their weapons, thanks to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act or PLCAA. COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have similar legal shields in place as well. They are not exempt or immune from being sued, however.
Jacob Charles, a lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law and executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, explained there are a few exceptions where firearms manufacturers or dealers can be held liable for damages their weapons cause and does not provide “absolute immunity.” These exceptions can include:
- Defects or damages in the design of the gun
- Wrongful marketing
- Breach of contract or warranty regarding the purchase of a gun
- Predicate exception or knowingly violating a state or federal law related to the sale or marketing of a firearm by the manufacturer or seller
Just last month, the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, sued gun maker Remington, alleging “wrongful marketing” of firearms, and agreed to a $73 million settlement.
Biden’s call for reform comes as over two-thirds of the country’s most populous cities recorded more homicides in 2021 than the previous year, with at least 10 setting all-time homicide records — with the majority committed with a firearm, according to a CNN analysis. According to the 2020 Uniform Crime Report from the FBI, it marks an increase from the previous year where homicides rose 30% from 2019 to 2020, the largest single-year increase the agency has recorded since it began tracking these crimes in the 1960s. It also states that about 77% of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a gun, up from 74% in 2019. Homicides were also up by 12% in Los Angeles from 2020.
Thomas Abt, a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, attributed the spike to three major factors: the impact of Covid-19 on communities and first responders; the fallout of social unrest after George Floyd’s murder; and the surge in gun sales since the pandemic started. The disturbing data more than justifies a response from Biden.
But while some gun advocates have criticized the president for what they interpret as an assault on guns, Biden hoped to appeal to common sense. “These laws don’t infringe on the Second Amendment. They save lives,” the impassioned first-term president explained.
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