Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Joe Biden claimed on Thursday that AR-15s and AK-47s exist "for no reason other than to kill people."
At the Iowa State Fair, Biden decried the rifles and said he would ban them if elected president.
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"It violates no one's Second Amendment rights to say you can't own certain weapons," he said. "You're not allowed to own a bazooka; you can't own a flamethrower."
He then dismissed the idea that Americans could resist a theoretical tyranny by mockingly quoting Thomas Jefferson, who Biden identified as his favorite president earlier in the day.
"Those who say ‘the Tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of patriots,' they are making the case you have to have enough firepower to take on the government if they come after you," he said. "Well you need a lot more than an AK-47 or an AR-15. The point of the matter is they are for no reason other than to kill people."
There are no official statistics on the number of AR-15s, AK-47s, or similar semi-automatic rifles in the country. However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade group, estimated more than 16 million of the firearms they describe as "modern sporting rifles" were in circulation last year.
"Modern sporting rifles remain the most commonly purchased rifle by Americans today," Lawrence G. Keane, the group's senior vice president, told Guns.com at the time.
Despite the lack of official data, there is a wide consensus that AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles are the most popular rifles in America. The National Rifle Association, CNN, NPR, and numerous other groups and media outlets have referred to them as such.
The Biden campaign didn't immediately respond to questions about his comments.
It's unclear why the former vice president believes the subset of rifles are only used for killing people when FBI data indicate 403 people were murdered with rifles of any kind in 2017—fewer than were murdered with knives, blunt objects, or fists. Additionally, rifles like the AR-15 are commonly used by owners for home defense, hunting, and shooting sports.
Biden has advocated for strict new gun control measures during his campaign. During the first debate, he proposed banning the sale of all guns except for theoretical "smart guns." That proposal would effectively ban all guns currently for sale in the United States.
On Monday, Biden said he would be coming for at least some of Americans' guns.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Biden during an interview what he would say "to gun owners out there who say, ‘well, a Biden administration means they will come for my guns.'"
"Bingo," Biden said. "You're right, if you have an assault weapon."