President Joe Biden said he has yet to hold serious talks with Republican lawmakers about a gun control bill, despite calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately in the wake of the Buffalo and Ulvade mass shootings.
Biden and Democrats would need at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate votes to pass any such legislation, but he has hesitated to use the bully pulpit to force Republicans to the negotiating table.
Reporters asked the president upon his return to the White House on Monday if he believes the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, will spur some GOP lawmakers to act on the subject, but Biden respondent that he doesn’t know “since [he hasn’t] spoken to them.”
“That’s hard to say because I have not been negotiating with any of the Republicans yet,” he continued when asked if there’s one specific reform that he wants to see in a bill. “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has long opposed Democrat efforts to install any type of gun reform, directed Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after the Uvalde shooting to work on a bipartisan bill with a group of Democrats led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).
Some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), have additionally expressed new openness to expanding mandatory background checks on firearm purchases.
Asked Monday if he thinks McConnell’s efforts are sincere, Biden again responded that he doesn’t know.
“McConnell is a rational Republican,” he added. “Cornyn is as well.”
Biden has signed a number of gun violence-focused executive orders since entering the office but has readily admitted that Congress must act to advance any additional, substantive reform.
“I can’t dictate this stuff. I can do the things I’ve done and any executive action I can take, I’ll continue to take,” he continued on Monday. “But I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t change a background check. I can’t do that.”
Meanwhile, gun violence advocates are growing increasingly frustrated with his apparent hands-off approach to negotiating a legislative compromise.
“He can’t just be the ‘eulogizer in chief.’ He also needs to put the full force of his office into the legislative process. Otherwise, it will seem like he’s lost hope.” Peter Ambler, executive director for Giffords, a gun safety group started by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), told Politico. “I think he can have an impact if he and the whole White House swing into action.”
“It’s been Biden offering platitudes without offering any solutions,” Guns Down America’s Igor Volsky added. “Who came up with this strategy? It’s just bizarre.”