Washington — President Biden sat down with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday for an interview during which he said he has limited taking unilateral action on gun control because he does not want to mirror his predecessor’s “abuse of the Constitution and constitutional authority.”
Kimmel kicked off the 23-minute-long interview by pressing Mr. Biden about why no action has been taken at the federal level to place more restrictions on firearms and curb gun violence, which the president attributed to “intimidation” by the National Rifle Association.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party, this is a MAGA Party. It’s a very different Republican Party,” Mr. Biden said. “And so you find people who are worried, I believe, that if they vote for rational gun policy, they’re going to be primaried and they’re going to lose in a hard-right Republican primary.”
Kimmel asked the president whether he could issue executive orders on gun control, adding that former President Donald Trump “passed those out like Halloween candy.”
Mr. Biden noted that while he has taken some action unilaterally on guns, he’s done so within the bounds of his presidential authority.
“What I don’t want to do, and I’m not being facetious, I don’t want to emulate Trump’s abuse of the Constitution and constitutional authority,” he said.
The president urged voters to make their voices heard at the ballot box and ensure gun control becomes a top voting issue.
“It’s got to be one of those issues where you decide, ‘Your position on the issue, senator or candidate for House or Senate on what we’re going to do with assault weapons or maybe we’ll have 300 rounds in a magazine, what you say on those things is going to determine how I’m going to vote for you.’ It’s going to be one of those issues,” he said.
Mr. Biden added: “I often get asked, ‘Look, the Republicans don’t play it square, why do you play it square?’ Well guess what? If we do the same thing we do, our democracy will literally be in jeopardy. It’s not a joke.”
Kimmel also lamented the challenge Mr. Biden faces with protecting abortion access as the Supreme Court prepares to issue a decision in the coming days and weeks in a blockbuster abortion case. Apublished last month indicated a majority of the justices had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the right to an abortion.
The president said that if the draft decision becomes final, and the court reverses nearly 50 years of abortion precedents, Congress will have to pass legislation protecting the right to abortion.
“I don’t think the country will stand for it. I think what we’re going to have to do is there’s some executive orders I could employ, we believe, we’re looking at that right now,” he said. “It’s clear that if in fact the decision comes down the way it does and the states impose the limits they’re talking about, it’s going to cause a mini-revolution, they’re going to vote a lot of these folks out of office.”
He again urged Americans to vote and “let people know exactly what the devil you think.”
While acknowledging the issues facing the nation, Mr. Biden also expressed optimism about the future, pointing to younger generations and their impacts on society.
“Look at the young people. Best educated, least prejudiced, most giving generation in American history,” he said. “This generation is going to change everything, we just have to make sure we don’t give up.”
Mr. Biden taped the interview with “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in Los Angeles, where he is attending the Summit of the Americas.