The speech will take place at 7:30 p.m. ET from the White House Cross Hall. Biden plans to discuss “the recent tragic mass shootings and the need for Congress to act to pass common sense laws to address the epidemic of gun violence that is claiming lives every day,” the White House said. announcing the speech.
Biden had privately considered an address on the recent mass shootings even before four people were killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday night, aides say. Discussions continued throughout Thursday morning, with the president finally deciding to speak at the White House before leaving Washington for a few days.
He has been notified three times in the past three weeks of the mass shootings. He was spending time with his family at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, when his Homeland Security adviser told him that 10 people had been shot dead in a grocery store in a racist attack in Buffalo, New York. He was returning from his first trip to Asia when aides delivered the latest report of a gunman opening fire on classrooms at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. And he was in Washington on Wednesday night when he received the third briefing, this time for a shooting at a medical building in Tulsa.
The remarks will be Biden’s most comprehensive speech on guns since a massacre at a Texas elementary school last week.
Since then, a series of additional mass shootings have taken place in states across the country, including in Tulsa on Wednesday. This shooting killed five people, including the shooter.
In the hours after the Texas massacre, Biden gave a moving seven-minute speech at the White House, calling the repeated gun killings of Americans “sick.”
“Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?” He asked.
Since then, however, Biden has only selectively entered the gun control debate, pausing before endorsing any specific legislative action to prevent further bloodshed.
On Wednesday, the president expressed how little optimism Congress would accept on new gun control legislation, even as a bipartisan group of senators meet to weigh the options.
“I served in Congress for 36 years. I’m never completely confident,” Biden said when asked if he thought lawmakers would agree to new gun laws.
“It depends. So I don’t know,” Biden said. “I did not participate in the negotiations because they are taking place at the moment.”
The lukewarm response was an indication that Biden is reluctant to partner too closely with Capitol Hill’s nascent efforts to reach a compromise on gun control.
While Biden said Tuesday he would speak with lawmakers about guns, the White House later said he would only get involved when the time is right.
Both Biden and his advisers have suggested they have exhausted their options on executive action to fight guns, while continuing to explore avenues for unilateral action.
“There’s the Constitution. I can’t dictate that stuff. I can do what I’ve done, and any executive action I can take, I’ll keep taking. But I can’t ban a gun , I can’t change the background checks. I can’t do that,” he said Monday.
Speaking a day after consoling families in Texas, Biden expressed limited hope that some Republicans, like Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and one of his key allies, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, might be persuaded to support some type of new gun laws.
“I don’t know, I think there’s an acknowledgment from rational Republicans, and I look at McConnell as a rational Republican, Cornyn as well. There’s an acknowledgment from them that they can’t keep it up,” he said.
McConnell has deputized Cornyn to begin talks with Democrats on some type of legislation to prevent further mass shootings, though talks are still in their preliminary stages.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who attended a bipartisan gun safety meeting on Wednesday, said he and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were in talks about changes to the Red Flag laws and that there was still “important” work to be done.
The senators plan to strengthen state laws allowing authorities to remove guns from people deemed a risk, known as red flag laws.
Blumenthal called the conversation “productive and encouraging” and said the negotiators were “all talking several times a day.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will introduce legislation banning military-style assault weapons next week as the chamber prepares to tackle gun violence.
This story has been updated with additional reports.