US President Joe Biden touted his plans to tackle gun crime and cast Trumpist Republicans as a threat to the rule of law on Tuesday in the first of several visits to the key state of Pennsylvania.
The Keystone State – which will host Biden three times over the next few days, including for a rare primetime address to the nation on Thursday – is one of the most contested battlegrounds as the president’s party seeks to cling to Congress in the midterm elections.
The Democratic leader was in the town of Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday — near his hometown of Scranton — where he promoted his Safer America plan and called on Republicans to block gun reforms.
“I’m determined to ban assault weapons in this country. Determined. I’ve done it once and I will do it again,” Biden said, referring to his work as a senator in the 1990s for institute the final ban.
Biden’s proposals include substantial new funding for 100,000 more police officers on the streets, investments in crime prevention and “common sense gun measures to keep dangerous firearms out of dangerous hands.”
His visit comes as former President Donald Trump, still the most influential Republican, is due to hold his own rally in the same area on Saturday.
Republicans have cast themselves as the party of law and order amid a spike in nationwide killings — with some success, according to multiple polls — while accusing Democrats of wanting to pull funding from the police.
– ‘Fear of the NRA’ –
But Biden tried to turn the tide by pointing to Republicans’ defense against the rioters in the US Capitol and highlighting the various criminal investigations involving Trump.
The president outlined his party’s actions against violent crime, pointing to the bipartisan gun safety package he signed into law in June, breaking a decades-long stalemate on gun control.
Only 14 Republicans crossed the aisle and endorsed the package, which included enhanced background checks for young buyers and federal money for states introducing “red flag” laws that allow courts to temporarily remove guns of those considered a threat.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said at the time that the legislation “infringes on Second Amendment freedom.”
“The NRA was against it, which means the vast majority of Republicans in Congress couldn’t even stand up and vote for it because they’re afraid of the NRA,” Biden said Tuesday.
He also spoke out against attacks on the integrity of the FBI, three weeks after he raided Trump’s Florida residence to retrieve government secrets removed from the White House.
The federal law enforcement agency has come under fire from right-wing circles after it searched the resort town of Mar a Lago for government secrets – and was attacked by a gunman in his Cincinnati office the following days.
– ‘Sickening’ –
“It’s sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI… There’s no place in this country to endanger the lives of law enforcement. No place. None. Period,” said Biden.
“I’m opposed to defunding the police, I’m also opposed to defunding the FBI.”
And he chastised “every” Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania for voting against his U.S. bailout, which provided hundreds of billions of dollars to states to help fund law enforcement and public safety programs.
The outcome of the upcoming U.S. Senate elections in Pennsylvania could decide whether Democrats cede control of the equally divided upper house of Congress to Republicans for the next two years.
But Republican strategists fear controversial Trump-backed candidates are scrambling their way to victory.
Cook’s policy report, however, shifted the race to the “skinny Democrat” this month, citing widespread Republican concerns about the campaign of famed Trump-backed doctor Mehmet Oz.
Initially preferring to portray himself as a unifier in a deeply divided country, Biden has recently focused his fire on Trumpist Republicans whom he has accused of embracing “semi-fascism”.
The 79-year-old Democrat, who narrowly beat Trump in Pennsylvania in 2020, will follow Tuesday’s speech with two more visits to the state.
On Thursday, he will echo his 2020 campaign theme of the battle for the “soul of the nation” in historic Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were written.
He will explain how a democracy in jeopardy threatens America’s position on the international stage, White House officials say, highlighting measures to protect the right to vote but warning that access to the ballot box is still under threat.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)