President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for a ban on the sale of assault weapons as part of a broader crime-prevention plan.
The call, which comes as a part of his Safer America Plan, comes in the wake of recent mass shootings and the passage, earlier this summer, of the most significant gun reform legislation in decades.
"It's time to hold every elected official's feet to the fire and ask them 'Are you for banning assault weapons, yes or no?'" Biden said. "Ask them. If the answer is no, vote against them."
Biden reassured the crowd in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, that he is not interested in taking people's guns and praised people he called "responsible gun owners."
"We should be treating responsible gun owners as examples of how every gun owner should behave," he said
Biden's remarks came 10 weeks to the day ahead of the November midterm elections in which crime is likely to be on voters' minds as a key issue.
It is also a tough issue for Biden and his fellow Democrats. A poll from ABC News and Ipsos released this month found crime was the worst-testing issue for Democrats, with respondents saying they trusted Republicans to do a better job on crime by an 11-point margin. A Fox News poll released in June showed a similar result, with Republicans enjoying a 13-point advantage on crime.
Republicans in recent months have seized on a rise in violent crime and the "defund the police" movement, which calls for decreasing or eliminating funding for traditional police departments and reinvesting public money into alternatives like mental health services.
In his remarks, Biden rejected the common refrain from far-left activists, saying such a move would not properly respond to crime and the concerns of Americans.
"When it comes to public safety in this nation the answer is not 'defund the police,' it's fund the police," Biden said.
Biden tried to recast the crime issue by drawing contrast with Republicans. He also criticized them for what he deemed tolerating talk of political violence, and criticized "MAGA Republicans" in Congress who have defended or downplayed the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The effort by a mob of Trump supporters and other far-right individuals to stop the certification of Biden's victory saw rioters clash with law enforcement, causing injury to several officers. Five officers died in the days after Jan. 6, four by suicide.
Biden took direct aim at Republicans who have downplayed the Capitol attack, saying they had no claim to be the party of law enforcement if they cannot condemn it.
"Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the sixth," he said. "For God's sake, whose side are you on? You can't be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection."
In addition to his remarks framing a choice between Democrats and Republicans in November, Biden touted his accomplishments on gun violence and public safety.
Biden touted his Safer America Plan, a sweeping plan to combat gun violence that includes more funding for police and works to reform the criminal justice system.
His call for a new ban on assault weapons mirrors those of more militant gun rights activists.
"I did it once before and I'll do it again," he said of banning assault weapons.
Biden wrote the Senate version of the controversial 1994 crime bill in response to a wave of violent crime in cities, which included a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
While the crime was popular at the time, commanding bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, many Democrats have since criticized the legislation for its role in exacerbating the problems of mass incarceration, which data shows have been disproportionately endured by Black Americans, specifically Black men.
Biden's remarks tacked closer to his "tough-on-crime" past than the more modern sensibility on the left of skepticism toward law enforcement.
"I'm opposed to defunding the police. I'm also opposed to defunding the FBI," Biden said, referencing calls from some Republicans to do so after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump, as part of an investigation into Trump's handling of sensitive government documents.
"There is no place in this country, no place, for endangering the lives of law enforcement. No place. None, never, period," Biden added.
Biden also touted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the gun reform bill he signed into law in late June.
It includes a bevy of provisions. Among the most touted is funding for various crisis intervention programs at the state level, including red-flag laws, which allow a judge to temporarily take away a person's guns if they are deemed to be a danger to themself or others.
In addition, it closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole." Before the bill had been signed, federal law did prevent people convicted of domestic violence or subject to domestic violence restraining orders from purchasing a gun. But there was a catch: It only applied if the person in question had been married to the victim, lived with the victim, or had a child with them.
The clarification left an entire category of domestic, intimate partners who aren't any of those things but still are abusers able to obtain guns, hence the moniker, boyfriend loophole.
The bill expanded restrictions to disqualify anyone found guilty of a domestic violence charge in a romantic relationship, regardless of marital status, from purchasing a gun. The restrictions would last for five years, after which the right to own a gun is restored if no additional violent crimes take place.
It also includes funding for community mental health services, telehealth, and school-based safety and mental health resources.