President Joe Biden said on Monday that AR-15 rifles wouldn’t help Americans in an armed conflict with the federal government.

Biden made the comments during the National Action Network’s (NAN) annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast in Washington, where he vowed to ban what he called “assault weapons,” referring to semiautomatic sporting rifles in the style of an AR-15.

“I love my right-wing friends who talk about ‘the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots,’” he said. “If you need to worry about taking on the federal government, you need some F-15s. You don’t need an AR-15.”

Biden’s comment was a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” Jefferson wrote in a 1787 letter to William Stephens Smith, the son-in-law of John Adams.

Firearm Industry Blasts Biden

This is not the first time Biden has said that Americans need more powerful weapons if they want to take on the federal government, and that they should therefore not object to giving up their semiautomatic sporting rifles.

“If you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons,” he said during a June 2021 speech outlining his plan to tackle gun violence.

The president also claimed incorrectly that the bullet out of an AR-15 travels “five times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun” during a speech in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in August 2022.

At the time, the Firearm Industry Trade Association responded to what it said was Biden’s “loose grasp of facts, willful ignorance of Constitutional rights, veiled threats and explicit insults,” which the association said were “a recipe for failure.”

“Instead of pledging to ban commonly-owned firearms, President Biden should be focused on locking up criminals, instead of winking-and-nodding at progressive prosecutors releasing them onto America’s streets,” the association said in its statement.

The president has long pushed for Congress to pass tighter gun-control legislation, and vowed again on Monday to get “assault rifles” banned, telling the audience: “I did it once and I’m going to do it again.”

“There’s no social redeeming value. Deer aren’t wearing Kevlar vests out there. What the hell do you need an assault—no, I’m serious,” Biden said, before pledging to also “ban the number of bullets that go in a magazine.”

The AR-15 rifle was the type of gun used by the shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. The shooter killed 19 children and two teachers.

Gun control advocates and Democrat lawmakers have said the type of firearm used was partly responsible for the carnage.

According to the Firearm Industry Trade Association, AR-15 rifles are among the most popular firearms sold in the Unites States and are typically used for hunting, home defense, range shooting, and competitive shooting. They are not “assault weapons” or “assault rifles,” according to the association.

Following Biden’s remarks on Monday, the National Rifle Association responded.

“Mr. President, Law-abiding Americans defend themselves from criminals with semi-automatic firearms every week. Dangerous criminals who you and your political allies set free with your soft-on-criminals policies prey upon innocent Americans,” the NRA posted on Twitter. “Do better, Joe.”

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