President Joe Biden called for Congress to quickly take action to enact legislation that bans assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, along with closing loopholes in the background check system, attempting to put new momentum behind gun-control efforts only just hours after a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado grocery store left 10 dead.
In brief remarks Tuesday afternoon before heading to Ohio, Biden noted that there are still many unknown details regarding the shooting, but will “not wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future,” urging Congress to act now.
“While we’re still waiting for more information regarding the shooter; his motive; the weapons he used — the guns, the magazines, the weapons, and the modifications that apparently have taken place to those weapons that are involved here — I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said, speaking from the White House State Dining Room.
“We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was law for the longest time, and it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again,” Biden added, citing his work incorporating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into his controversial 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for 10 years.
The president called on the Senate to “immediately pass” the pair of House gun-control bills that recently passed last week.
“We can close the loopholes in our background check system, including the ‘Charleston loophole.’ That’s one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence,” Biden proclaimed.
The first House bill — H.R. 8 “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021” expands background checks to nearly all gun sales, with the measure passing by a vote of 227 to 203. Eight Republicans supported the bill, while one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine opposing it. The second bill — H.R. 1446 “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021” extends the window for background checks to 10 days from three days, giving law-enforcement authorities more time to vet gun buyers. The vote was 219-210, with only two Republicans voting in favor and two Democrats voting against.
Biden argued gun laws shouldn’t be a “partisan issue,” claiming “this as an American issue.”
“These are bills that received votes with both Republicans and Democrats in the House,” Biden said. “This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue that will save lives, American lives. And we have to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process.”
However, both House gun-control bills only drew a handful of Republican voting in favor, and it faces a tougher battle to reach the 60 votes needed to pass in the 50-50 divided Senate.
Biden even suggested that he may take executive action on gun violence, saying “as president, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal to keep people safe.”
The president lamented the Boulder shooting as “another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma,” and praised “the exceptional bravery” Officer Eric Talley who made “the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives” and was killed.
Colorado law enforcement authorities identified 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Aliss as the gunman in the Boulder supermarket shooting. Aliss has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and it is unclear at this time what his motive was that left 10 victims ranging from 20 years to 65 dead.
Biden has tried to tackle gun violence in the past following the expiration in 2004 of his 10-year ban on so-called assault weapons. During the 2020 election, Biden as a candidate offered a sweeping plan to seek legislation to again ban assault weapons, background check legislation, as well as provide more resources to enforce current law.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said from the Senate floor now that Democrats hold control of both chambers and the White House, he vows to bring forth a bill to requiring a universal background check for gun purchases to the Senate “debate and address” gun violence.
“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.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden’s suggestion of using executive action saying the president is “considering a range of levers,” including executive order and legislation in order to address gun violence.