EXCLUSIVE: The White House is slamming congressional Republicans, accusing them of working to "defund the police," "defund the FBI" and choosing the "gun lobby over the fight against gun crime" by opposing assault weapons ban legislation backed by President Biden and Democrats.
The White House told Fox News Digital that they are going on offense in an attempt to hold Republicans accountable for obstructing legislation that would ban assault weapons.
The official told Fox News Digital that the American people "know" that the passage of the assault weapons ban legislation is "key to taking on the rise in violent crime," which the official said the Biden administration "inherited from the Trump administration."
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted to pass an assault weapons ban in July. The legislation is now pending in the Senate.
FBI CRIME REPORT SHOWS MURDERS ROSE OVER 2020'S HISTORIC NUMBER AS MIDTERMS APPROACH
According to the bill's summary, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022 would make it illegal to "knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD)."
The ban on semi-automatic weapons comes after mass shootings in both Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
"Devastatingly for the country, congressional Republicans have chosen the gun lobby over the fight against gun crime by opposing the assault weapons ban that the president and Democrats in Congress all support," White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital. "They are literally siding with gun company profits instead of keeping Americans safe and preventing law enforcement from being outgunned."
Bates also told Fox News Digital that when Biden "inherited a rising violent crime rate, every Republican in Congress voted against the critical funding we delivered to stop the police layoffs happening all over the country."
Bates also said Republicans have "continually attempted to defund the police by voting to eliminate the COPS program the president created, and are even advocating to defund the FBI."
The Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) program Bates referred to was created in the 1994 crime bill sponsored by then-Sen. Biden and is the main way the federal government funds local police.
"The president and congressional Democrats know the answer is to fund law enforcement and keep weapons of war out of the hands of criminals," Bates said.
STRATEGISTS AND POLITICAL EXPERTS WEIGH EFFECT OF GOP'S FOCUS ON CRIME AHEAD OF MIDTERMS
When asked for reaction to the White House's accusation, a senior Senate GOP aide said: "Roll the highlight reel from the squad."
Progressive Democrats in 2020 pushed the "defund the police" message after George Floyd died in police custody.
Biden, however, has repeatedly said he does not believe the police should be defunded, and has signed a number of pieces of bipartisan legislation in support of law enforcement.
But the White House’s comments come as crime is on the rise in major cities, and as Republicans are seizing on the issue ahead of the midterm elections.
The issue of crime is front of mind in competitive Senate races, including in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada and is also a top issue in dozens of House races and gubernatorial campaigns.
Republicans say Democrats across the nation are soft on crime, and are focusing their messaging on public safety and through a pro-law enforcement lens.
"For those keeping score at home, the same Democrats who tell you with a straight face that inflation is zero, the border is secure, and that men can get pregnant now want to claim they are the party that supports law enforcement and solving the crime crisis their policies created," a House GOP leadership aide told Fox News Digital.
"The American people understand reality and see through their ludicrous claims," the aide said.
A recent poll indicates that voters believe Republicans are more equipped to handle the issue that is now of more importance to them than abortion, just weeks away from the November midterm elections.
According to the survey produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates in New York City, the economy (89%), education (77%) and inflation (76%) topped out the issues voters consider "highly important" as midterms loom, but those issues were followed closely by crime at 69%, which beat out abortion at 62%.
MASSIVE INCREASE IN BLACK AMERICANS MURDERED WAS RESULT OF DEFUND POLICE MOVEMENT: EXPERTS
The comments also come as the FBI released its annual report on national crime in 2021, showing murders slightly increasing above 2020’s historic numbers.
Murders increased 4.3% last year, rising from 22,000 to 22,900, while rape instances rose as well. The FBI acknowledges that violent crime is at the very least matching the high levels seen in 2020, which surged nearly 30% over 2019.
Nevertheless, violent crime slipped slightly across the nation as a whole, falling 1% from 1,326,600 in 2020 to 1,313,200 in 2021.
The new data collection methodology failed to receive full data sets from almost 40% of police departments across the country — including massive departments in cities such as New York City and Los Angeles.
About 9,700 law enforcement agencies did not provide full reports to the FBI by the March 2022 deadline. Before the switch to the new methodology, the FBI was able to receive data from more than 95% of law enforcement agencies.