Biden calls for assault rifle ban, more gun restrictions after Colorado shooting

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass gun restrictions including expanded background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines following the mass shooting at a Colorado grocery store.
  • The Democratic-held House has passed gun safety legislation this year, but the bills face opposition among Senate Republicans.
  • Boulder Police said Tuesday that a suspect was arrested and charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
  • Biden also ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at the White House, military posts, naval vessels and upon all public buildings.
Biden on Colorado shooting: We can ban assault weapons
Biden on Colorado shooting: We can ban assault weapons

President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Congress to pass new gun restrictions — among them a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammo magazines — as he shared his condolences after a deadly mass shooting at a Colorado grocery store.

"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future," Biden said at the White House.

The massacre in Boulder, Colo., which occurred less than a week after another mass shooting in Georgia, reignited the debate in Washington over how best to root out gun violence in the U.S. Several Democratic efforts in recent years to pass firearm restrictions have fallen short in the face of Republican opposition, though the GOP has backed some more modest reform measures.

Boulder police identified Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, as a suspect in the Colorado shooting, which left 10 people dead. He was arrested Monday afternoon at King Soopers grocery store and has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, officials said.

"I want to say to the community, I am so sorry this incident happened," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "We are going to do everything in our power to make sure this suspect has a thorough trial and we do a thorough investigation."

Police respond at a King Sooper's grocery store where a gunman opened fire on March 22, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people, including a police officer, were killed in the attack.
Chet Strange | Getty Images

Biden said Tuesday that he was briefed on the shooting by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. He said he also spoke with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and is being kept informed by local law enforcement officers.

The president said he and first lady Jill Biden are "devastated" by the shooting, and lamented that more families were "shattered by gun violence." Biden noted that 51-year-old police officer Eric Talley, who was the first to arrive at the scene of the shooting, was among the dead.

"Every time an officer walks out of his or her home, and pins that badge on, the family member that they just said goodbye to wonders subconsciously, will they get that call, the call that his wife got?" Biden said.

He said he would not speculate about the alleged killer's motivations "until we have all the facts." But the president stressed that lawmakers should not hesitate to take action in response to the violence.

Biden pushed Congress to reinstate bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. He called on the Senate to "immediately" take up two House-passed bills which aim to close loopholes in the background-check system.

"This should not be a partisan issue," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier Tuesday that he is committed to bringing the legislation to the floor.

"This Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country," Schumer said. "Today our hearts are with the people of Colorado, and with everyone whose lives have been touched by gun violence."

Republicans could stand in those bills' way in a Senate divided 50-50 by party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said his caucus would look at Democrats' gun-reform proposals and "have a full, robust discussion" — but he cast doubt on the possibility of bipartisan agreement.

"There have been deep-seated philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats about how to deal with gun violence," McConnell told reporters.

Biden also signed a proclamation Tuesday ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House, military posts, naval vessels and upon all public buildings.

It's the second time in less than a week that Biden has called for flags to be lowered in the wake of a mass shooting, following the killing of eight people at spas in the Atlanta area.

Before Biden's remarks, former President Barack Obama released a statement that called on "those with the power to fight this epidemic of gun violence to do so."

"A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country," Obama's statement said.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.