Leading politicians in the United States, including President Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama, have renewed their push for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado.
Ten people were killed yesterday when a suspect, identified by police as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, entered a King Soopers grocery store and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon. One of the victims, Eric Talley, was a police officer.
Alissa was taken to Boulder County Jail today and has been charged with 10 counts of first degree murder.
Mr Biden addressed the tragic incident at the White House this afternoon.
He urged the US Senate to “immediately” pass legislation which would close loopholes in the country’s background check system. The two bills in question have already passed through the House of Representatives.
The President also called for Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons.
“While we’re still waiting for more information regarding the shooter, his motive, the weapons he used, I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future, and urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to act,” said Mr Biden.
“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 a law, and it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again.
“We can close the loopholes in our background check system. That’s one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence.
“The Senate should immediately pass – let me say it again, the United States Senate, I hope some are listening, should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system.
“These are bills that received both Republican and Democratic votes in the House. It should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives, and we have to act.
“I’ll have much more to say as we learn more, but I wanted to be clear. Those poor folks who died left behind families, it leaves a big hole in their hearts. And we can save lives.”
If the Senate does attempt to act on the two existing bills Mr Biden mentioned, the Democrats will need at least 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, a parliamentary procedure through which opponents could prevent the legislation from moving forward.
That means they will require 10 Republican votes in addition to the 50 they control.
And that is assuming absolute unity from the Democrats, which seems unlikely. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the Republican-leaning state of West Virginia, has already indicated he opposes the bills in question.
“What the House passed? Not at all,” Mr Manchin said today when asked whether he supported the legislation, according to The Hill.
“I come from a gun culture. I’m a law-abiding gun owner.”
He said he did not want background checks to apply to private gun sales between people who know each other.
Mr Manchin and the rest of the Senate are under further pressure from Mr Obama, who lashed out at “cowardly politicians” in a written statement today.
“In addition to grief, we are also feeling a deep, familiar outrage that we as a nation continue to tolerate these kinds of random, senseless acts day in and day out without taking any significant action,” Mr Obama said.
“In so many ways, our lives may soon start to return to normal after a long, difficult year filled with so much loss. But in a normal life, we should be able to buy groceries without fear. 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.
“It is long past time for those with the power to fight this epidemic of gun violence to do so. 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. We can overcome opposition by cowardly politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble and arsenal. We can, and we must.
“A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country. We shouldn’t have to choose between one type of tragedy and another. It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough.”
Mr Obama’s attempts to strengthen gun control measures during his own time as president were fruitless. He faced a Republican-controlled Senate for six of his eight years.
The violence in Boulder was America’s seventh mass shooting in seven days.
On March 16, eight people were killed as a gunman attacked a series of spas in Atlanta, Georgia.
The next day, five people were injured in a drive-by shooting in Stockton, California.
On March 18, four people were shot and taken to hospital in Gresham, Oregon.
On March 20, five people were shot at a club in Houston, Texas.
The same day, eight people were shot in Dallas, resulting in one death.
And a shooting at a party in Philadelphia, also on March 20, killed one person and injured five more.
At a media conference this morning, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold identified Alissa as the suspect from the supermarket shooting, and promised a “thorough” effort to bring him to justice.
“I want to say to the community, I am so sorry this incident happened,” a visibly emotional Chief Herold said.
“We are going to do everything in our power to make sure this suspect has a thorough trial and we do a thorough investigation.”