Joe Biden is the latest Democrat to say he will push to ban assault weapons if elected president in 2020 -- a pledge that comes as the nation debates how to curb gun violence following two deadly mass shootings that killed more than 30 people in Ohio and Texas.
The former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate declared in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Sunday that the United States has a "huge problem with guns," and that assault weapons, which he defined as "military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly," are a threat to US national security.
"If we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won't just be a political failure. It will be a moral one. It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy," Biden wrote. "That we are desensitised to children running from schools and bodies littering parking lots, that our outpouring of thoughts and prayers will grow increasingly hollow."
The 2020 presidential candidate also wrote that anyone who "pretends there's nothing we can do is lying" and that holding that view should be "disqualifying" for those seeking the White House.
"There is so much we can do -- practical, sensible steps that draw broad support among the American people," he said, also writing that there is "overwhelming data" that shootings committed with assault weapons result in more deaths than shootings committee with other kinds of guns.
Earlier this month, 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, when a shooter opened fire at a Walmart. Just hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, a shooter killed 9 people in 30 seconds with an assault-style rifle, according to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl.
In 1994, Biden and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein led the effort to enact a law banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for 10 years. Biden wrote in his op-ed published Sunday that in 2004 he tried to extend the bans before they expired, but failed. The National Rifle Association and gun manufactures, he said, had put the Republican Party in a "headlock."
Almost all the candidates say they want to reinstate that ban, but some have gone further, proposing ways to reduce the number of military-style weapons owned privately. The most popular is a federal buyback program.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said this week, after the shooting in his hometown, that he would be open to a mandatory buyback of guns, though he didn't specify which kinds of weapons. That's something only California Rep. Eric Swalwell had embraced before he dropped out of the presidential race last month.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders say they'd push for a voluntary weapon buyback program, in addition to reinstating the prohibition on military-style weapons.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg stopped short this week of endorsing such a plan. First he wants to ban the sale of new assault weapons, Buttigieg said, "then we can figure out other mechanisms to reduce the number that are circulating out there."
Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro has said he supports a federal ban on assault weapons. He said during a CNN town hall in April that he supports "things like gun buybacks" but did not elaborate on whether he was calling for a federal buyback.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris are among those who have said they support banning assault weapons. Harris has also said she would use executive action to ban the import of AR-15-style assault weapons to the U.S.