Published: Mar 24, 2021, 11.06 AM(IST)
US President Joe Biden has called for a ban on assault weapons, a day after the second deadly mass shooting in a week that left ten people dead in Colorado and sparked urgent new calls for gun control.
Biden spoke in Washington hours after a 21-year-old man was charged with shooting 10 people in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. That massacre came less than a week after another gunman shot dead eight people at multiple spas in the Georgia state capital Atlanta.
Together the killings ignited new calls for politicians to act — but on Tuesday the familiar bipartisan divide was emerging once more.
The Democrat called on the Senate to approve two bills passed by the House of Representatives on March 11 that would broaden background checks on gun buyers. He also called for a ban on assault-style weapons.
Biden said he did not “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.”
“We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again,” Biden, recalling that Congress previously overcame its divisions to pass a 10-year ban on such weapons back in 1994, said.
“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.”
Tighter gun control is overwhelmingly popular with Americans — but Republicans have long stood against what some view as any infringement on their right to bear arms.
This month the House of Representatives passed two measures aimed at enhancing background checks and closing a loophole related to a deadly 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The bills address a popular premise among American voters — that background checks be required for all US firearm sales, including those at gun shows. But they are unlikely to pass through the Senate, which would require at least nine Republicans to vote for them.
Nevertheless majority Senate leader Chuck Schumer said he had committed to bringing background checks to the floor. “This Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” he said Tuesday.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the White House was “considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive actions.”
The Colorado suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was in hospital after being shot in an exchange of fire with officers during the Monday afternoon attack on King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of state capital Denver.
He is charged with ten counts of murder in the first degree and will be shortly transported to Boulder county jail.
The United States has the world’s highest rate of civilian gun ownership, RAND Corp research shows, and a gun fatality rate consistently higher than other rich nations. There were more than 43,000 U.S. gun deaths last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Activists say executive actions that Biden could take right away include strengthening background checks, giving money to cities to fight gun violence, and regulating the market for “ghost guns” – partially assembled guns that aren`t subject to the same rules as most firearms.
Dozens of shocking mass shootings in the United States over the past decade, including an elementary school attack that killed 26, have failed to spur lawmakers into action on gun control legislation, thanks in large part to opposition from congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.