US President Biden is in Pennsylvania shoring up support for Democrats in the key political battleground state where a Senate seat and the governor's office are up for grabs. Trump is hosting his own rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

President Joe Biden speaks at Wilkes University as part of the first of three trips to Pennsylvania in the coming week.
President Joe Biden speaks at Wilkes University as part of the first of three trips to Pennsylvania in the coming week. (Matt Slocum / AP)

US President Joe Biden has forcefully defended the FBI as the agency and its employees have come under withering criticism and threats of violence since executing a search warrant at former president Donald Trump's Florida residence earlier this month.

"It's sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the life of law enforcement and their families, for simply carrying out the law and doing their job," Biden said on Tuesday before a crowd of more than 500 at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. 

"I'm opposed to defunding the police; I'm also opposed to defunding the FBI."

Biden also used his remarks to promote his administration's crime-prevention efforts and to continue to pressure Congress to revive a long-expired federal ban on assault-style weapons. 

Democrats and Republicans worked together in a rare effort to pass gun safety legislation earlier this year after massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. They were the first significant firearm restrictions approved by Congress in nearly three decades but Biden has repeatedly said more needs to be done.

'We beat the NRA. We took them on and beat the NRA straight up. You have no idea how intimidating they are to elected officials," an animated Biden said, referring to the National Rifle Association. "We’re not stopping here. I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country! Determined. I did it once before. And I’ll do it again."

As a US senator, Biden played a leading role in temporarily banning assault-style weapons, including firearms similar to the AR-15 that have exploded in popularity in recent years, and he wants to put the law back into place. 

Biden noted that parents of the young victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde had to supply DNA because the weapon used in the massacre rendered the bodies unidentifiable.

"DNA, to say that's my baby!" Biden said. 

"What the hell is the matter with us?"

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Biden in a key battleground

Tuesday's speech marked Biden's first of three trips to Pennsylvania in the coming week, underscoring the state's role as a key political battleground. Trump is hosting his own rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

Democrats are trying to blunt Republican efforts to use concern about crime to their advantage in the midterms. It's a particularly fraught issue in Pennsylvania, a key swing state where a US Senate seat and the governor's office are up for grabs.

The Republican candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, accuses Democrat Josh Shapiro of being soft on crime as the state's twice-elected attorney general, saying at one recent event that crime has gone up on his opponent's watch and that Shapiro "stands aside" as homicides rise across Pennsylvania.

Homicides have been increasing in Pennsylvania but overall crime seems to have fallen over the last year, according to state statistics.

In the US Senate race, heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Dr Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee, has tried to portray the Democratic candidate, Lt Gov John Fetterman, as extreme and reckless on crime policy.

Fetterman has endorsed recommendations that more geriatric and rehabilitated prisoners can be released from state prisons without harming public safety. Oz and Republicans claim that Fetterman wants to release "dangerous criminals" from prisons or that he’s in favour of "emptying prisons."

Only 11 percent of adults named crime or violence as one of the top five issues they consider most important for the government to work on in the next year, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted in June. That's unchanged since December.

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Source: AP