By Lucia Leal
Washington, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden on Tuesday revived the intense US debate about gun control calling for restrictions on assault weapons after this week’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado.
One day after a 21-year-old man gunned down 10 people in a supermarket with an AR-15 assault rifle, Biden spoke about gun control, an issue that he had avoided mentioning last week, when a series of other shootings by a lone gunman left eight people dead in Atlanta.
“I don’t need to wait another minute … 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 in remarks to reporters from the White House.
The president called for the Senate to “immediately” pass two bills – already approved by the House – to close background check loopholes for gun buyers, saying “This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives.”
He also called for prohibiting Americans from owning assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” referring to a ban on those weapons approved in the US in 1994 but which expired in 2004 without Congress renewing it.
It’s unlikely that any of these measures will obtain the 60 votes needed in the Senate to move forward, with the narrow Democratic majority needing to convince 10 recalcitrant Republicans to join them.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden could use his executive power to push for greater gun control, but his ability to make unilateral changes on the issue is limited.
When he was vice president, Biden and then-President Barack Obama pushed for a series of reforms to control guns, but Congress did not approve the one that garnered the greatest consensus nationwide: establishing a background check system for gun buyers.
Obama on Tuesday contributed to reactivating the debate on the issue, calling in a communique for overcoming the opposition of “cowardly politicians” and “the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble an arsenal.”
Obama, who governed the country from 2009-2017, was referring to the National Rifle Association, which defends the constitutional right to bear arms and has the support of powerful allies on Congress who receive generous campaign contributions from the organization.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz voiced his opposition to any increase in restrictions on weapons during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“After every mass shooting … Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens because that’s their political objective. But what they propose not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse” since “when you disarm law abiding citizens you make them more likely to be victims,” said the conservative Texas politician.
The Boulder shooting was the worst mass killing in the US since August 2019, when a young white supremacist killed 23 people, most of them Hispanics, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Boulder police identified the presumed shooter as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, who resided in the Denver suburb of Arvada and had been living in the US for a number of years.
Court documents reviewed by The New York Times show that Alissa was born in Syria in 1999 and had two encounters with Arvada police in 2018.
The FBI already knew who Alissa was because he had links to another person the agency was investigating, according to the New York daily.
Authorities said they don’t yet know the motive for the attack and that Alissa, who was wounded in the leg during the incident and admitted to a local hospital, on Tuesday is scheduled to be transferred to a local jail.
Alissa is facing 10 counts of first degree murder for the shootings, with the victims being customers or workers at the supermarket as well as Boulder police officer Eric Talley, 51, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene and died during an exchange of gunfire.