Biden urges Congress to pass assault weapon ban
President Biden on Tuesday called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to close loopholes in the background check system after a gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said in remarks at the White House following Monday’s shooting. “We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. … We should do it again.”
Biden called on the Senate to “immediately pass” two House-passed bills that would expand background checks for firearm sales, noting that both passed the Democratic-controlled lower chamber with some Republican support. One of the bills would close the so-called Charleston loophole by extending the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. The bill is linked to the 2015 shooting in Charleston, S.C., in which a white supremacist killed nine Black Americans at the Mother Emanuel AME Church.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue, this is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives, and we have to act,” Biden said.
Ten people, including a police officer, were shot and killed at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder on Monday.
Authorities on Tuesday identified the suspect as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa from Arvada, Colo. He has been charged with 10 counts of murder.
Biden noted that officials were still waiting for more information on the shooter, his motive and the weapons he used. Various reports Tuesday indicated that the suspect used an AR-15 style assault rifle to carry out the attack.
The president said he was being regularly briefed by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray and is in touch with state and local leaders in Colorado.
Biden thanked the “heroic” police and first responders and commended the “exceptional bravery” of Eric Talley, the police officer who died while responding to the shooting. Biden also offered condolences to the families who lost loved ones.
“Those poor folks who died left behind families, that leaves a big hole in their hearts,” Biden said. “Those families who are mourning today because of gun violence in Colorado and Georgia and all across the country, we have to act so there’s not more of you, there’s fewer of you, as time goes on.”
Biden delivered the remarks before departing the White House to Columbus, Ohio, where he will highlight his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and mark the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One that the White House is considering a range of actions, including potential executive action, to address gun violence.
“We are considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive actions to address, obviously, not just gun safety measures but violence in communities, so that has been under discussion and will continue to be under discussion,” Psaki said.
Biden ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half-staff before his departure, noting they were still there from last week’s deadly shooting in Atlanta when he heard the news out of Boulder.
Vice President Harris earlier described the shooting as “absolutely tragic” in brief remarks to reporters at a swearing-in ceremony for CIA Director William Burns.
“It’s absolutely tragic,” Harris said when asked for her reaction to the violence. “Ten people going about their day, living their lives, not bothering anybody. A police officer who is performing his duties, and with great courage and heroism.”
Both Harris and Biden noted that Talley leaves behind seven children.
The shooting took place less than a week after a gunman killed eight people in a rampage at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. The tragedies had already renewed calls for gun control legislation from Democrats and gun control advocates.
“President Biden is right: this is the moment to act on gun safety,” Everytown for Gun Safety chief John Feinblatt said in a statement after the president’s remarks. “To end these senseless killings, we need more than thoughts and prayers — we need the Senate to pass background checks, and we need this administration to take executive action to save lives.”
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, agreed that “we cannot wait a moment longer.”
“In the past week alone, two mass shootings have killed at least 18 people, wounded at least one more, and devastated our country — while other types of gun violence continue to kill more than 100 people in the U.S. every day,” Watts said.
However, many Republicans remain opposed to gun control measures, meaning that passing legislation is expected to be difficult given the 50-50 partisan split in the Senate.
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Tuesday at a previously scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on reducing gun violence, adding that Democratic proposals would take “away guns from law-abiding citizens.”
At the outset of the hearing, Chairman Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said, “Prayer leaders have their important place in this, but we are Senate leaders. What are we doing?”
“We won’t solve this crisis with prosecutions after funerals. We need prevention before shooting,” Durbin said.
Speaking from the Senate floor, Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed that “the Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence” following the shooting.
“We have a lot of work to do. I’ve already committed to bringing universal background checks legislation to the floor of the Senate. There is a hearing today in the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Durbin’s leadership to examine several commonsense proposals,” Schumer said.
Updated at 3:32 p.m.
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