Joe Biden’s Evolution on Guns

Joe Biden’s Evolution on Guns

On the night of August 25, 1994, a complicated package of legislation championed by then-Senator Joe Biden looked like it had gathered enough votes. Along with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, Biden stood in front of television cameras and reporters in the Senate TV gallery and declared victory. “There are a lot of reasons, I think, for the American people to breathe a little sigh of relief today,” Biden said. Since the late 1980s, Biden had been trying to pass legislation to address the spike in violent crime that began earlier that decade. By 1994, the package — later dubbed “the crime bill” — passed Congress and was signed by President Bill Clinton, with Biden sitting over his right shoulder at the White House. Today, the 1994 crime bill is often criticized for its significant contributions to mass incarceration and more aggressive policing. Most Democrats, including Biden , have distanced themselves from it, particularly in the age of Black Lives Matter. Forged over more than six years of contentious debate in the Senate, the bill increased sentences for those convicted of nonviolent crimes and ramped up funding to build more prisons. It also boosted spending for community programs and drug rehab centers and enacted tougher domestic abuse rules, but those provisions are still broadly popular. Back then, the part of the legislation that was most controversial — and that posed the biggest challenge for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — was a federal ban on assault weapons. The fight […]

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