President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for a nationwide ban on assault weapons, background check reforms and broad changes to magazine capacity restrictions in his first remarks since a gunman opened fire at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket on Monday, killing 10 people.
“While we’re still waiting on more information regarding the shooter, his motive, the weapons he used, the guns, the magazines, the modifications to those weapons that have apparently taken place here, I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said from the White House.
“We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again,” he added.
The 1994 Crime Bill included a ban on assault-style weapons for civilians, but the provision was allowed to expire in 2004. The measure also contained certain loopholes ― for example, it only applied to weapons manufactured after the bill was passed.
“The United States Senate ― I hope some are listening ― should immediately pass the two House bills that close loopholes in the background check system,” Biden said. “These are bills that received votes from both Democrats and Republicans in the House. This should not be a partisan issue.”
Specifically, Biden called on Congress to close the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allowed the shooter who opened fire at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 to obtain a weapon. Current laws allow gun sellers to proceed with a sale in cases where the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System cannot return an immediate result, and the FBI does not contact them within three days.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, has been charged with first-degree murder after allegedly opening fire with an assault-style weapon inside a King Soopers grocery store.
Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, 51, who spent more than a decade with the department and leaves behind a wife and seven children, was among those killed in the shooting. He was one of the first officers to respond to the scene after receiving reports of gunshots.
“That’s the definition of an American hero,” Biden said of Talley.
The victims’ ages ranged from 20 to 65 years old. The nine civilians were: Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Terri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
Authorities have yet to release information on Alissa’s alleged motive or how he obtained his weapon.
Former President Barack Obama released a statement shortly before Biden’s comments that also called for swift action to rein in gun violence, although he stopped short of giving specific policy proposals.
“We should be able to live our lives without wondering if the next trip outside our home could be our last,” Obama wrote. “We should. But in America, we can’t.”
The issue of gun control has been subject to partisan bickering and blockades for decades, even as the number of mass casualty shootings ticks upward, with the violence claiming the very young, the very old, and all ages in between. Among wealthy countries, the U.S. has been shown to have the most relaxed gun control measures.
In an illustration of how politicians are not likely to unify behind a proposal anytime soon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called his opponents’ stance on the issue “ridiculous.”
“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,” Cruz said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control.
The meeting was scheduled before this week’s mass shooting in Colorado and last week’s mass shooting in Georgia, which took eight lives.