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Why Biden’s pitch on assault weapons to a police group mattered

The informal relationship between the GOP and law enforcement has divisions, especially over assault weapons. President Biden understands this quite well.


President Joe Biden was scheduled to travel to Florida to address the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, but in light of his recent Covid infection, the Democrat ended up speaking virtually. As it turns out, that was a good thing — because he had quite a bit to say.

“You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop,” Biden said, for example. “You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-American.” Taking direct aim at his predecessor, the president added, in reference to Jan. 6, “The police were heroes that day, Donald Trump lacked the courage to act.”

But just as notable were Biden’s comments about a possible assault weapons ban. The Hill reported:

President Biden on Monday argued that Republicans aren’t on the side of law enforcement if they oppose banning assault weapons in remarks to a Black law enforcement organization.

“You hear a lot of politicians say about how much they love you, how much they care about you, they’ll do anything for you,” the president said, adding, “To me, it’s simple: If you can’t support banning weapons of war on American streets, you’re not on the side of police.”

Biden went on to say, “Being a cop today is a hell of a lot harder than it’s ever been. We expect everything of you. Maybe worst of all, we send you out to do your job on the streets flooded with weapons of war.”

For good measure, the Democrat also told the conference, “On the ballot this year will be whether or not this nation bans assault weapons.”

It’s a message that’s likely to resonate with quite a few law enforcement officials. The Boston Globe reported last month, for example, on numerous law enforcement officials — including many in conservative red states — who are concerned about officials loosening gun laws, only to find themselves “ignored by the same Republican lawmakers who loudly declare their unwavering support for police.”

About a week earlier, Politico reported on a virtual press conference with representatives from the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chief Association, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. The law enforcement groups called for a series of new policy measures — including a ban on assault weapons.

The larger political dynamic isn’t exactly a secret: In general, evidence suggests that police officers are more likely to support Republicans than Democrats. This isn’t altogether new.

But the informal relationship between the GOP and law enforcement is not without divisions. In many instances, police departments and their officers believe lax gun laws put them in great danger. It’s why they’ve repeatedly asked elected officials for years to help make the streets safer by making it harder for civilians to buy weapons of war, leaving cops outgunned in their own communities.

To which Republicans — many of whom are only too pleased to engage in “back the blue” posturing — consistently respond, “No.”

Biden is well aware of this division, which helps explain why he was so eager to talk about it yesterday.