President Joe Biden will deliver a special prime-time address on guns Thursday evening amid a slew of mass shootings and as negotiations continue on Capitol Hill to pass even modest changes to the nation’s laws.
The decision to give the speech was not made until midday Thursday, according to two people familiar with the president’s schedule, underscoring the sense inside the White House that they needed to show more involvement on the issue. The speech will be delivered at 7:30 p.m. The topic, per the White House, will be “the recent tragic mass shootings, and the need for Congress to act to pass commonsense laws to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is taking lives every day.”
To date, Biden has comforted the families of victims in separate trips to Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas, and he’s urged Congress to act. But the White House has stressed that they are leaving legislative discussions and congressional mechanics up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
On Wednesday, an official told POLITICO that Biden’s legislative affairs team has been in close contact with the Hill since the tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo, logging dozens of calls with leadership, committees with jurisdiction, and with members who are involved in the negotiations. Biden also has vowed to meet in person with lawmakers, who are working on a scaled down bipartisan bill.
Biden has delivered relatively few prime-time addresses to date. Absent his speeches before joint sessions of Congress, he spoke to the nation last March to mark the one-year anniversary of the country shutting down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the White House also is cognizant of leaving news vacuums over long weekends, with the president often appearing before the cameras on Fridays (especially those Fridays when jobs numbers are announced) or taking questions before he departs for weekend getaways.
Biden is set to leave Washington late Thursday afternoon for a long weekend at his beach home in Rehoboth, Del.