Biden decries 'sick' Nashville school shooting
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday condemned a "sick" epidemic of gun violence against children, a day after three students and three adult staff members were killed in a school shooting in Nashville.
"I never thought when I started my public life that guns would be the number one killer of children in America," Biden told an audience in North Carolina where he was visiting a semiconductor factory. "It's sick."
Firearms have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for Americans aged 1 to 19, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data through 2021, the latest figures available.
Biden to visit Nashville
The US president told journalists that planning is "under way" for him to meet with families of the victims in Nashville.
He also said that most Americans find owning military-style rifles, which are routinely used in such massacres, "bizarre."
"The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, it's a crazy idea. They're against that," he told reporters earlier at the White House.
'Congress has to act'
Biden has called on Congress to re-impose a ban on so-called assault weapons following the tragic shooting. He noted that such a ban had been passed with his help as a senator during the Bill Clinton administration in 1994. "The last time we passed an assault weapons ban, violence went down," he said.
The president expressed exasperation that Congress won't end legal ownership of semi-automatic rifles, like the popular AR-15, and said he was powerless to do more.
"I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do on my own anything about guns. The Congress has to act," he told reporters. "I can't do anything except plead with the Congress to act reasonably."
Millions of Americans own assault weapons
The 1994 ban ended civilian use of some semi-automatic weapons and also ammunition magazines holding 10 or more rounds, which allow the shooter to keep firing for longer without reloading. The ban expired after 10 years and was not renewed.
There were more than 24 million AR-15 style weapons in the United States by mid-2022, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation firearm trade association.
According to a Washington Post/Ipsos survey of gun owners, around one in 20 American adults, or roughly 16 million people, are thought to own at least one AR-15 type rifle.
Republicans have argued against Biden's call for an assault weapons ban, labeling it government overreach. They say it infringes on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms.
Some Republicans, such as Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, have instead argued as an alternative that more police be deployed to school grounds to stop the shootings.
Nashville shooter owned seven firearms
The 28-year-old suspect who shot dead six people at an elementary school in Nashville bought and concealed multiple weapons in the family home, despite evidence of mental health issues, police said.
Nashville police chief John Drake told reporters that the suspect had been receiving treatment for an "emotional disorder," and that the shooter's parents believed their child who lived at home with them had bought and later resold a single gun.
"As it turned out, she had been hiding several weapons within the house," Drake said. He added that pupils and staff were not targeted individually and there was no known motive despite the shooter's manifesto being found.
dh/wd (AFP, Reuters)
Editor's note from March 28, 2023: The gender identity of the 28-year-old shooter is unclear. Local authorities referred to the suspect as a "female shooter" who was transgender. Several US media outlets, however, have reported that the suspect used male pronouns on social media profiles.