President Biden ranted against ownership of what he called “high-caliber weapons” Monday — appearing to suggest that there should be restrictions on the most popular handgun in America, the 9mm pistol, and repeating a previously debunked claim that the Second Amendment prohibits ownership of cannons.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House after returning to Washington from a weekend that included a visit to the site of last week’s mass shooting in Texas, Biden recounted a visit to a trauma hospital in New York, where he said doctors had showed him X-rays of gunshot wounds caused by various firearms.
“They said a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in the lung, and we can probably get it out — may be able to get it and save the life,” Biden said. “A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body.
“So the idea of these high-caliber weapons is, uh, there’s simply no rational basis for it in terms of thinking about self-protection, hunting,” the president went on.
Later in his remarks, Biden appeared to rule out the possibility of taking major executive action on guns, saying: “I can’t dictate this stuff. I can do the things I’ve done and any executive action I can take, I’ll continue to take. But I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t, you know, change the background checks. I can’t do that.”
Biden’s statements about 9mm pistols are in keeping with his rhetoric before entering the White House. At a 2019 fundraiser in Seattle, for example, then-candidate Biden asked his audience: “Why should we allow people to have military-style weapons including pistols with 9mm bullets and can hold 10 or more rounds?”
According to Shooting Industry magazine, 9mm pistols accounted for 56.8% of all handguns made in the US during 2019. In all, more than 15.1 million 9mm guns were produced in this country during the 2010s. The possibility of outlawing or otherwise regulating such weapons are likely to be a non-starter among conservatives and gun rights advocates.
“Remember, the Constitution, the Second Amendment, was never absolute,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and purchase a lot of weapons.”
Biden has made that claim before, most recently when he announced new regulations to stop the spread of so-called “ghost guns,” and they have been repeatedly declared false by fact-checkers.
“The Second Amendment did not place limits on individual ownership of cannons,” PolitiFact stated in April when it rated his claim false.
The website pointed out the text of the Constitution: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Despite widespread public outrage over Tuesday’s massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the racially-motivated May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, Biden said he had not yet spoken with any Republicans about potential gun control legislation, but expressed hope for a compromise.
“I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it,” he said. “At least, that’s my hope and prayer.”
Asked whether Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) authorizing Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to work with Democrats could lead to results, Biden said “I don’t know.”
“I think Senator McConnell is a rational Republican. I think Cornyn is as well,” he added. “I think there’s a recognition in their part that they — we can’t continue like this. We can’t do this.”
Without Republican support, Democrats are powerless to pass any gun legislation in the 50-50 Senate unless they manage to temporarily set aside the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold for passing most bills.
Biden’s comments came fewer than 48 hours after Vice President Kamala Harris called for an assault weapons ban after attending a funeral for Buffalo shooting victim Ruth Whitfield, 86.
“You know what an assault weapon is? You know how an assault weapon was designed?” Harris said Saturday. “It was designed for a specific purpose – to kill a lot of human beings quickly. An assault weapon is a weapon of war with no place, no place in a civil society.”