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Biden Urges Immediate Action From Senate On Gun Bills After Colorado Shooting

President Biden speaks about the Colorado shootings in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks about the Colorado shootings in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday.

Updated March 23, 2021 at 3:36 PM ET

President Biden said Tuesday that he and first lady Jill Biden were "devastated" by Monday's shooting in Boulder, Colo., and called on the Senate to pass gun bills passed by the House earlier this month that would tighten gun laws.

Acknowledging there is more to confirm about the shooter's weapons and motivation, Biden said, "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 to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act."

Biden said assault weapons and high-capacity magazines should once again be banned and that loopholes in background checks should be closed.

"It will save lives," he said of the House-approved legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would bring the bills to the floor, but their fate is uncertain in a tightly split Senate.

Biden's remarks come a day after 10 people, including a police officer, died in a shooting in a grocery store in Boulder. Police identified the victims on Tuesday, ranging in age from 20 to 65. They also said suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, Colo., is in custody.

The president has been receiving regular updates on the shooting, the White House said, and has directed that flags be flown at half-staff through Saturday.

Biden also spoke about the bravery of Officer Eric Talley, 51, who was the first on the scene.

"When he pinned on that badge yesterday morning, he didn't know what the day would bring," Biden said. He added, "He thought he would be coming home to his family and his seven children, but when the moment to act came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives. That's the definition of an American hero."

The violence follows shootings last week in the Atlanta area, where a gunman opened fire at three spa and massage businesses. Eight people died, including six women of Asian descent, prompting an amplified outcry against rising violence and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans.

"Whatever the motivation [for the shooting], we know this, too many Asian Americans walking up and down the streets are worried," Biden said last week. "They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, harassed, they've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed."

Earlier this month, the House passed a pair of bills to strengthen gun laws, including expanding background checks. Lawmakers are holding a hearing Tuesday as the country enters a new cycle of debate over gun control. Still, a narrowly divided Senate is a major roadblock to passage in that chamber.

However, despite Biden's strong support of passing additional bills to tighten gun control measures, they are not universally supported.

"I come from a gun culture. And I'm a law-abiding gun owner would do the right thing, you have to assume we will do the right thing, give me a chance to do," Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday.

Without Manchin's support, a Democrat supported bill would have little chance of passing in the tightly contested Senate.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that in addition to pushing legislation, Biden was considering executive actions "not just on gun safety measures but violence in communities," adding that discussions are ongoing about what the administration plans to do. During the campaign, Biden endorsed a $900 million program to curb gun violence in urban communities.

As vice president, Biden led the Obama administration's failed push for stronger gun control measures after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

They pushed to expand background checks for gun sales and ban more types of guns, but the measures failed to pass Congress.

Former President Barack Obama released a statement of his own Tuesday, saying, "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," he said. "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 an arsenal. We can, and we must."

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Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.