Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday urged U.S. lawmakers to reinstate a ban on assault weapons during a joint-session address to Congress.

Calderon said that while he respected the U.S. Constitution's guarantees on gunowners' rights, the legal flow of assault weapons has resulted in the weapons falling into the hands of drug gangs who are locked in a violent war with the Mexican government.

"I will ask Congress to help us, with respect, and understand how important it is for us to enforce current laws to stem the flow of guns and enforce existing laws as well as consider reinstating the assault weapons ban," the Mexican president told lawmakers in both parties assembled Thursday morning in the House chamber.

Calderon's plea won strong applause from Democrats, and some support from Republicans.

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004 without having been renewed by Congress.

Calderon said that the spike in gang violence in Mexico, which has reached a fever pitch as of late, coincided with the expiration of the ban, which was first authorized in 1994.

"Today, these weapons are aimed by the criminals not only at rival gangs, but also Mexican civilians and authorities," he said, warning the U.S. lawmakers assembled in the chamber that U.S. law enforcement officials could face similar dangers if the ban were not reinstated.