President Biden took aim Monday at one of the most common types of firearms owned by Americans in what appeared to be a gun-related technical flub.
Speaking about his past experience with congressional hearings on “rational gun laws” and a visit to a New York trauma hospital, Mr. Biden appeared to confuse the different types of bullets used by semiautomatic handguns vs. military-style assault rifles.
“They showed me an X-ray and said a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in a lung, and we can probably get it out and save a life. A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “The idea these high-caliber weapons — there’s simply no rational basis for it in terms of self-protection, hunting … There’s only one reason for something that can fire 100 shots.”
Rounds of 9mm ammunition typically are used in handguns; most rifles use different rounds. The AR-15 fires a .223-caliber or 5.56x45mm bullet.
Critics on Twitter were quick to point out the difference or suggest Mr. Biden was calling for a ban on common handguns.
The president went on to say that the “Second Amendment was never absolute.”
“You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed,” Mr. Biden said.
An 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle killed 19 children and two teachers last week at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, reigniting a political debate about how the country should respond to prevent similar future tragedies.
Mr. Biden expressed cautious optimism that bipartisan negotiators on Capitol Hill will reach an agreement on gun control legislation.
He described lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas as “rational Republicans” who can strike a deal with Democrats.
But Mr. Biden also noted that his ability to take unilateral action on the issue is limited by his executive powers.
“I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it,” he said. “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 change a background check. I can’t do that.”