WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for tightening gun control laws in the wake of a mass shooting Monday at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, less than a week after eight people were killed during a shooting spree in Atlanta.
Speaking at the White House before leaving for Columbus, Ohio, Biden suggested that he may take executive action on gun violence.
"As president I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal to keep people safe," he said.
Biden called for a ban of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was a law for the longest time, and it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again," he said. "We can close loopholes in our background check system, close the Charleston loophole. That's one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence."
Biden also praised the officer, Eric Talley who was killed in the Boulder shooting Monday. "He thought he would be coming home to his family and seven children, but when the moment came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimately sacrifice to save lives, that’s the definition of an American hero."
Biden called on the Senate to "immediately pass" two bills the House recently approved that change background check laws. He argued gun laws shouldn't be a "partisan issue," adding, "this is an American issue."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to hold votes on the House-passed measures, but does not currently appear to have the support of at least 10 Republicans to avoid the filibuster.
'A moment of action'
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Democrats called for expanding background checks and more restrictive gun laws and Republicans immediately voiced opposition. The hearing, about measures to address gun violence, was scheduled before Monday’s shooting.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that in addition to a moment of silence, he’s calling for “a moment of action.”
“Prayer leaders have their important place in this, but we are Senate leaders. What are we doing? What are we doing other than reflecting and praying? That's a good starting point. That shouldn't be an end point,” said Durbin, who said that there were 20 people shot in the city of Chicago last weekend.
“We won't solve this crisis with just prosecutions after funerals. We need prevention before shooting,” he added.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noted that Boulder banned assault weapons in 2018, but a court blocked the ban 10 days ago.
Republicans criticized Democrats' calls for tougher gun laws, arguing that they are trying to take away people's Second Amendment rights with proposals that won't solve the violence problem.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member on the committee, argued that the rise in violence results from "defunding" the police.
“We can't reduce violence in our communities without a professional well-trained and fully funded police force. This includes gun violence,” he said. “The rallying cry during the riots last summer was defund the police. Cities that followed that advice saw a rapid spike in violent crime.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, criticized Democrats for pushing the same legislation every time a mass shooting occurs, arguing the measures would do nothing to stop them.
“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,” he said. “What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking away guns from law abiding citizens, because that's their political objective.”
Cruz said he and Grassley will reintroduce a bill that would criminalize "straw purchasing" of firearms — when someone buys them on behalf of someone who is prohibited by law — and gun trafficking. The bill would also improve and reauthorize grants for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
'The political willpower'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that Congress must approve the recently House-passed legislation to address gun violence.
One measure would require the checks for nearly all gun purchases, including transactions involving unlicensed or private sellers. The other bill aims to close the “Charleston loophole," which allows the sale of firearms to proceed if background checks aren’t completed within three days, by expanding the review period to 10 days.
In an interview on "CBS This Morning," Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said he felt “a great deal of anger and frustration right now" and "the time for inaction is over."
"It does not have to be this way," he said. "There are commonsense gun reform legislation proposals that have been debated in the Congress for far too long.”
Neguse said the gun lobby and others have stopped Congress from making "meaningful reforms in the past but that's no excuse."
"I think the American people are tired of excuses, so it's time for us to roll up our sleeves in the Congress and muster the political willpower to actually get something done,” he said.
Former President Barack Obama, who was unsuccessful in fighting for gun control measures in the wake of numerous mass shootings during his two terms in office, called on elected officials Tuesday to take action because "this is a normal we can no longer afford."
"We should be able to go to school, or go out with our friends, or worship together without mentally planning our escape if someone shows up with a gun. We should be able to live our lives without wondering if the next trip outside our home could be our last," Obama said in a statement. "It will take time to root out the disaffection, racism and misogyny that fuels so many of these senseless acts of violence. But we can make it harder for those with hate in their hearts to buy weapons of war."