WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US vice president Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, called on Monday (Aug 12) for reinstating a ban on assault weapons and including a buyback programme to get them off the streets.
In a column in The New York Times, Biden also called for stricter background checks for gun buyers and greater use of "smart-gun technology" that allows a weapon only to be fired by its authorised owner.
"We have a huge problem with guns," Biden said in the article published about a week after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead.
"Assault weapons - military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly - are a threat to our national security, and we should treat them as such," the former senator from Delaware said.
"There's overwhelming data that shootings committed with assault weapons kill more people than shootings with other types of guns," he said.
"Shooters looking to inflict mass carnage choose assault weapons with high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds," Biden said. "They choose them because they want to kill as many people as possible without having to stop and reload." Biden said that if he wins the 2020 presidential election, he would seek to reimpose a 1994 ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"And this time, we're going to pair it with a buyback program to get as many assault weapons off our streets as possible as quickly as possible," he said.
The 1994 law that banned assault weapons expired in 2004.
Biden said that besides stricter background checks for gun buyers he would "accelerate the development and deployment of smart-gun technology... so that guns are keyed to the individual biometrics of authorised owners."
Following the El Paso and Dayton shootings, US President Donald Trump has said he supports expanding background checks but has come out against an assault weapons ban, a measure that is also opposed by the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA).