(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden vowed to meet with lawmakers about gun control legislation following the deadly massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
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“I will meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you,” Biden said Tuesday as he welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the White House. He told Ardern he’d work work with her to limit extremist content online.
Biden told reporters Monday he hadn’t yet opened negotiations with GOP lawmakers on the issue, but he believed there was a chance to strike a compromise with “rational Republicans,” including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.
“There’s a recognition on their part they can’t continue like this,” Biden said.
The White House has said it’s allowing congressional leaders to dictate the pace and framework of talks after the shooting — which left 19 children and two teachers dead — prompted renewed calls for legislative action on gun control.
Democrats in Congress have repeatedly tried and failed to strengthen federal gun laws.
Read more: Biden Lays Flowers at Texas School Where Shooter Killed 21
Biden said he wanted to speak with Ardern about her meetings with major technology companies aimed at curbing extremist content online following a 2019 mass shooting at a pair of mosques in Christchurch.
Ardern said she discussed a range of topics with Biden, including reforms technology giants can make to reduce harmful content, such as changing algorithms. They discussed the Christchurch Call to Action, a 2019 summit Ardern initiated that aimed to find ways to curb violent extremism online.
“I want to work with you on that effort, and I want to talk to you about what those conversations were like,” Biden said during a portion of the Oval Office meeting held in front of press, later adding: “The work you’re doing with tech companies is really important.”
New Zealand also enacted a series of gun control measures after the 2019 shooting, restricting semi-automatic firearms and magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds.
Ardern expressed condolences for the mass shooting in Texas and one earlier this month in Buffalo, New York. “Our experience, of course, in this regard is our own. And if there’s anything we can share that would be of any value, we are here to share it,” she told Biden.
A senior Biden administration official said Ardern did not urge a specific course of action on gun control.
Biden said there had been “an awful lot of suffering” in the US, much of it preventable.
“I’ve been to more mass shooting aftermaths than I think any president in American history, unfortunately, and it’s — so much of it, much of it is preventable and the devastation is amazing,” he said.
(Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.)
Ardern said she raised the issue of US aluminum tariffs with Biden and that she invited the president to visit New Zealand.
She said they also discussed the Solomon Islands, adding that the rules of in the Pacific should be set by the region and not on “donor-donee” relationships, but declined to offer further detail.
The leaders also discussed the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as climate change and US engagement with the governments of Pacific Island nations, the senior Biden administration official said.
(Adds details starting in eighth paragraph)
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