Texas school shooting: Joe Biden told to appoint a ‘gun tsar’ as massacre reignites calls for firearms restrictions | US News
Campaigners are calling on US President Joe Biden to appoint a “gun tsar” and issue urgent executive orders aimed at curbing firearms violence.
The call comes after 21 people lost their lives in the latest mass shooting in America.
High school dropout Salvador Ramos went on a murderous rampage in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, killing 19 elementary students and two teachers, in the deadliest US school shooting in nearly a decade.
Gun safety advocates are now pushing Mr Biden to take stronger measures to curb such violence.
But already on Thursday, Democrats’ first attempt at responding to the back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde failed in the Senate, as Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety.
Before the hearing, safety campaigners had spoken with White House representatives and urged the president to:
• Name a gun violence tsar
• Make an emergency declaration on gun violence (a situation where a government is empowered to be able to put through policies it would normally not be permitted to do)
• Issue an executive order (a signed, written, and published directive from the president) on background checks for firearms purchases
• Advocate lifting the Senate filibuster if necessary (the rule that requires at least 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to pass most legislation)
The fourth point is particularly important to gun safety campaigners now as the Senate is divided 48 Democrat/50 Republican (two independent) and gun debates tend to follow party lines.
Gun ownership as an entitlement has been cemented in the Constitution since 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment (which gives Americans the right to “bear arms) guaranteed the right to own a handgun.
While Mr Biden has vowed to push for new restrictions, the White House wants Congress to act first, to have a more significant impact than executive action.
And it says it has been in touch with top Democrats in Congress regarding next steps on firearms laws.
Democrat-backed bills requiring background checks, banning semi-automatic rifles, and strengthening gun safety measures have failed for a decade in Congress in the face of stiff Republican opposition, as well as objections from some moderate Democrats and independents.
Democrats control both chambers of Congress – the Senate and House of Representatives – and the presidency, but individual states tend to pass their own regulations.
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Biden ‘not doing enough’
Democrat senator Chris Murphy said their plan was to “work hard at a compromise”.
“Hopefully, we succeed, and the Senate can vote on a bipartisan bill that saves lives,” he said.
But David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school massacre in Florida, said Mr Biden was “not doing enough”.
“I’ve talked many times to the White House,” he said, “and repeatedly we hear again and again: ‘Well … there’s X thing that comes up, there’s Y thing that comes up.'”
White House spokesman Michael Gwin said they were “continuing to look at every tool we have to stop gun violence”, including through executive actions.
Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration has taken several steps without Congress.
They include requiring that “ghost guns”, which are often assembled from kits, be regulated the same way as traditional firearms, and launching a strike force aimed at cracking down on illegal firearms trafficking in major cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
Po Murray, who chairs the grassroots group Newtown Action Alliance, said the White House needs an office of gun violence prevention.
“Since we elected a gun safety president, he could certainly do more,” she said.