President Joe Biden said Monday that gun rights are not absolute, claiming that ordinary American citizens “couldn’t buy cannons” when the Second Amendment was drafted.
Taking another swipe at extremist gun supporters after the Texas school massacre, Biden said there is no good reason for law-abiding citizens to buy assault weapons with high-capacity ammunition.
“It makes no sense to be able to purchase something that can fire up to 300 rounds,” Biden said. “There’s only one reason to buy a gun that can fire 100 rounds.”
“I think things have gotten so bad that everybody’s getting more rational, at least that’s my hope,” Biden told reporters on the White House lawn after returning to Washington.
In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators talked over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun legislation after a decade of mostly failed efforts. That included encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep guns away from those with mental health problems.
Biden said he deliberately avoided talking policy with Republicans during his trip to Uvalde to console the families who lost children in the massacre and has not had any substantive negotiations with GOP leaders.
Biden defended the assault weapons ban that he helped usher into law in 1994. The measure, which was allowed to lapse a decade later by Republicans, helped limit mass shootings, he said.
The president said the Second Amendment does not exist in a vacuum and was never intended to confer a right for anyone to carry any weapon with no limits.
“The Constitution, the Second Amendment was never absolute,” he said.
Biden also added a controversial claim: “You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed.”
Fact-checkers dispute that assertion, noting that the Second Amendment, which was drafted in 1791, does not specifically exclude ownership of any weapon.
Biden said he had taken some executive actions on guns “but I can’t outlaw a weapon” and can’t “change the background checks.”
He said he didn’t know where congressional negotiations stand, but “there’s realization on the part of rational Republicans” that “we can’t keep repeating ourselves.”