U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to ban assault weapons and fund police officers in a speech marking the first of three visits over a week to the political battleground of Pennsylvania ahead of November’s congressional elections. Biden has called on Congress for $37 billion for crime prevention programs and providing some of that money to police to reduce gun crime, which has surged in the United States. The Democratic president also criticized Republican lawmakers who have opposed his plans to fund law enforcement and cut gun violence.
“I’m determined to ban assault weapons in this country – determined,” Biden said. “We have to act for all those kids gunned down on our streets every single day that never make the news.” The visit to the small city of Wilkes-Barre also gave Biden an opportunity to address a key concern for voters in a critical state that lifted the Democrat to the presidency and plays host to one of the closest-watched 2022 Senate races.
Republican former President Donald Trump, who is flirting with challenging Biden for a second term in 2024, is expected to hold a rally in the same city on Saturday. As in 2020, when Biden was elected president, Pennsylvania will be a key battleground state in November and in the next presidential election in 2024.
It is home to one of a handful of competitive Senate races that will determine whether Democrats can hold onto their razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate. Biden also plans visits to the state on Thursday for a major political speech and next Monday to mark Labor Day. Ahead of the elections in November, many Republican candidates are portraying Democrats as unwilling to fight growing crime rates in some parts of the country.
They are also trying to tie them to the “defund the police” movement that arose out of racial justice protests in 2020, although many Democrats, including Biden, have never supported slashing police funds. The rate of U.S. gun deaths surged 35% in 2020 to the highest point since 1994, with especially deadly levels for young Black men, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report published in May.
Biden’s plans include $13 billion in the federal budget over the next five years to hire and train an additional 100,000 police officers. The proposal requires congressional approval. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania and the state’s current lieutenant governor, was not expected to join Biden for the event on Tuesday but planned to meet with him on Labor Day.
Some Democratic candidates in the state and elsewhere have wrestled with whether to join Biden on the campaign trail, with some fearing his low approval ratings could drag down their campaigns.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)