'Don't Need to Wait Another Minute': Biden Calls on Congress to Pass Assault Weapons Ban

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in which a 21-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle fatally shot 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Congress to “ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” and to enact additional gun safety reforms, including improved background checks.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said during a White House press conference 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.”

As The Hill reported Tuesday: 

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, South Carolina, in which a white supremacist killed nine Black Americans at the Mother Emanuel AME Church.

On Monday afternoon in Boulder, 10 people, including a city police officer who responded to the scene, were gunned down at a local supermarket in the Rocky Mountain college town. Colorado has been home to several mass shootings since 1999, when 12 students and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School.

According to The Daily Poster, the carnage in Boulder came less than a week after the National Rifle Association took credit for helping to strike down the city’s assault weapons ban. 

“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.”
—Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action

“Our nation is being held hostage by the gun industry, and until the industry is held fully accountable for the direct role it plays in these massacres, communities across the nation will continue to live in fear of the next horrendous attack,” Violence Prevention Center executive director Josh Sugarmann said Tuesday in a statement.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the Boulder massacre—which occurred just days after a gunman murdered eight people, the majority of whom were Asian women, in a shooting spree at three separate spas in metro Atlanta—was the 102nd mass shooting in the U.S. in 2021.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that firearms accounted for nearly 40,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2019.

Yet, “the Covid-19 pandemic led to an increase in gun violence, along with an unprecedented spike in online gun purchases,” Ernest Coverson, manager of Amnesty International USA’s End Gun Violence program, said Tuesday in a statement. “Many gun owners, including first-time buyers, were able to get their hands on firearms without undergoing necessary training or background checks.”

The recent spate of mass shootings, as Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, has intensified pressure on Democrats to use their slim majority in the Senate to finally eliminate the 60-vote filibuster rule and approve substantial gun safety laws over foreseeable GOP obstruction.

It just so happened that prior to the recent killing spree in Boulder, the Senate Judiciary Committee had already scheduled a hearing on gun violence for Tuesday.

During his opening statement at the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that “inaction by this Congress makes us complicit.”

Blumenthal recounted how—in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 children and six teachers dead—a mother who had been traumatized by the school shooting told him that she was “ready now” to take action to address gun violence.

That sentiment was shared by many this week. Following the White House’s remarks Tuesday, Everytown for Gun Safety chief John Feinblatt said in a statement that “President Biden is right: this is the moment to act on gun safety.”

“To end these senseless killings, we need more than thoughts and prayers,” he added. “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, concurred 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.

“There is no key legislation that will end gun violence overnight, but there are steps Congress can take right now to save lives.”
— Ernest Coverson, Amnesty

At the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)—chairman of the committee and the second-highest ranking Democrat in the upper chamber—said that “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,” Durbin added. “We need prevention before shooting.”

While “gun violence continues to traumatize communities across the country,” Coverson pointed out, “it’s been 25 years since the federal government passed a gun safety law.”

“Now, more than ever, lawmakers must prioritize gun safety solutions,” Coverson continued. “There is no key legislation that will end gun violence overnight, but there are steps Congress can take right now to save lives.”

Amnesty has called on the Senate to pass the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, which Coverson said “would support on-the-ground groups working to keep communities safe from gun violence… [and] make a long-term and life-changing impact on marginalized and underserved groups.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for his part, vowed to “address the epidemic of gun violence,” noting that he has “already committed to bringing universal background checks legislation to the floor of the Senate.” 

During his address on Tuesday, Biden said that “those poor folks who died left behind families, that leaves a big hole in their hearts.” 

“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,” the president added.

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