Biden makes guns, police key issues for mid-term elections
By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Aug 30 (EFE).- With a fiery speech in the key state of Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden on Tuesday made gun control and funding the police central issues for the mid-term elections in November, where his Democratic party hopes to retain control of Congress against strong Republican headwinds.
Almost shouting at times and raising his right index finger to give greater emphasis to his words, the president declared to his large and supportive live audience that “I’m determined to ban assault weapons in this country. Determined.”
The president said that Americans “see hate and anger and violence just walking the streets … And they just want to feel safe again. They want to feel a sense of security. And that’s what my crime plan is all about. You know, I call it the Safer America Plan.”
“And both of your members of Congress voted for it. It’s based on a simple notion – when it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police, it’s fund the police,” the president said.
Biden reiterated his respect for the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects the right to “keep and bear arms” and said that he keeps two shotguns at his residence, but he argued that there is no place on the streets or in US schools for rifles designed to kill large numbers of enemy troops in war.
He called upon Americans to vote in November for candidates who want to ban assault rifles, which have been used recently in massacres by lone gunmen in Buffalo, New York, leaving 10 dead, and Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered.
Visibly angry, Biden spoke about how some of the dead children’s parents in Uvalde had to give authorities samples of their own DNA so that their children could be identified, given that the bullets fired by the attacker from his AR-15 tore their bodies apart.
“For God’s sake, what’s the rationale for these weapons outside of a warzone?” he asked to the audience, listening silently at the time. “They inflict severe damage. What the hell is the matter with us? I’m not joking. Think about it. What are we doing?”
After the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings, Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Congress came to an agreement to approve a minimalist bill tightening some controls on gun ownership, but the president and a good portion of his party want to go farther and ban assault weapons altogether.
Biden, who was a senator for 36 years before serving as former President Barack Obama’s vice president, played a central role in the 1994 approval of a law prohibiting assault weapons, but it expired in 2004 without Congress moving to renew it.
The public – gathered in an auditorium at Wilkes University, a private university in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – responded to Biden’s strident words about banning assault weapons with applause and also shouted enthusiastically when he laid out his proposals to improve the working conditions for local police forces.
The president made clear that he is against the idea that the most progressive wing of the Democratic party touted in 2020 to “defund” the police amid a series of protests that year over the death of African Americans like George Floyd at the hands of white police officers.
He emphasized, however, that police must establish links with the communities they patrol so that they can develop relations of trust with those they are trying to protect instead of creating a feeling of aggressiveness that has made many local residents reject cooperating with law enforcement.
Behind the podium from which Biden delivered his speech were a number of uniformed police officers.
His supporters waved small US flags and signs with the words “Safer America Plan,” the name of the plan Biden presented at the beginning of this month to ban assault rifles, invest in the police and in crime prevention programs.
On Tuesday, Biden made the first of three planned trips to Pennsylvania, the next one coming on Monday, Sept. 5, Labor Day, before former President Donald Trump holds his own rally in the state the following Saturday.
In Pennsylvania, the governorship is in play in the November elections, along with a key Senate seat that could determine which party controls the upper chamber of Congress during the two years remaining in Biden’s term.
Running for that Senate seat is Democrat John Fetterman, the state’s current lieutenant governor, who – standing 6 feet 8 inches tall and looking rather rough – reminds people of a stereotypical factory worker from the state’s Rust Belt but wants to move in the circles of power in Washington.
Facing off against him is Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Trump ally and well-known celebrity doctor for his television appearances, where for years he had his own daily medical advice show after being made a familiar face on TV by his association with Oprah Winfrey.