Former Vice President Joe Biden said so-called assault weapons “should be illegal” in a Monday interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper.
Following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Cooper asked how gun owners should react to a potential Biden administration.
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“So to gun owners out there who say, ‘well, a Biden administration means they will come for my guns,'” Cooper began to ask Biden during an exchange about tightening gun control laws.
“Bingo,” Biden replied. “You’re right if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is they should be illegal, period. Look, the Second Amendment doesn’t say you can’t restrict the kinds of weapon people can own. You can’t buy a bazooka, you can’t have a flame thrower.”
Biden characterized many of the people who own so-called assault weapons as zealous opponents of the government who are misguided if they think they could fend off the military with small arms.
“The guys who make these arguments are the people who say, ‘The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots. We need the protection against the government.’ You need an F-15 for that,” Biden said, referring to the F-15 fighter jet. “You need something well beyond whether or not you have an assault weapon.”
In this he echoed Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), who told gun owners would be foolish to resist giving up their guns because the military has nuclear weapons. Swalwell was also running for president but dropped out after his poll numbers remained consistently low.
Biden then said he would “institute a national buyback program” to “get [assault weapons] off the street.” He said he would not go into people’s homes to confiscate guns they already own because “there’s no legal way I’m aware of that you can deny them the right” to keep guns legally purchased.
He joins a majority of 2020 Democratic candidates who have said that they would increase restrictions on gun ownership in America following the latest round of shootings.
Sens. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke have also pushed for tougher gun control laws in the wake of the shootings. CNN announced on Monday that it will be holding a town hall on Wednesday to discuss the need for tighter restrictions.
The last time the network held such an event, following the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school, hecklers booed people who did not support gun control measures.
It’s not entirely clear what Biden and the other candidates mean when they call for an “assault weapons ban.” The now-defunct assault weapons ban championed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) mostly limited the sale of semiautomatic guns based on cosmetic features, and she’s proposed similar legislation this year. Meanwhile, “Assault rifles” are fully automatic and are already illegal under existing law.
President Donald Trump condemned both mass shootings on Monday, saying that they are a product of a “mental illness” crisis in the United States.
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