In his first remarks to the press following the shootings in Boulder, Colorado that left ten people dead, President Joe Biden called on the Senate to quickly approve a pair of gun control bills that have already passed the House, and declared that Congress should enact his proposed ban on modern sporting rifles and so-called high capacity magazines, though he acknowledged that police have not officially said what kind of firearm was used in the attack or how the suspect acquired the weapon.
In his statement, Biden referred to the ban on so-called assault weapons that was a part of the 1994 crime bill he authored as a senator, claiming that the ban saved lives and prevented mass shootings. However, the president failed to acknowledge that the attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in which 13 people were killed, took place in 1999 in the midst of the ten year period that his previous gun ban was in place.
Biden also failed to acknowledge that in the years since the ban expired, a number of studies have shown that there is no statistically significant data showing that it was effective in reducing homicide rates. The firearms that were banned under Biden’s bill weren’t used in many crimes before the ban, during the ban, or after the ban expired, and the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that fists and feet are more likely to be used as murder weapons than rifles of any kind.
Despite saying that he didn’t need “to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future,” Biden did not announce any new executive actions on firearms, though gun control groups and anti-gun politicians on Capitol Hill have been pushing the Democrat to fulfill his campaign promises to use his executive authority to ban the importation of modern sporting rifles and require background checks be conducted on retail sales of unfinished firearm frames and receivers.
The president didn’t take any questions from the media after his brief statement, but Biden did tell the press that he would have more to say on the issue in the coming days.
According to police, the 21-year old suspect was arrested and charged with assault in 2017 for punching a fellow classmate at Arvada West High School. The suspect ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months of probation and 48 hours of community service. An Arvada police spokesman confirmed two additional run-ins with law enforcement over the past few years involving simple assault and criminal mischief, but it’s not clear if the suspect was ever prosecuted for those crimes, both of which are misdemeanor offenses and would not have disqualified him from legally purchasing a gun.
The suspect’s brother also told a Daily Beast reporter that the young man was “deeply disturbed,” but so far no evidence has emerged of any psychiatric treatment that would have barred him from legally purchasing a firearm.
“[It was] not at all a political statement, it’s mental illness,” Ali Aliwi Alissa told The Daily Beast. “The guy used to get bullied a lot in high school, he was like an outgoing kid but after he went to high school and got bullied a lot, he started becoming anti-social.”
Biden, like other gun control proponents, isn’t waiting for the facts to come in before issuing his demands for the passage of more gun control. Mental health wasn’t mentioned by the president during his statement today. Instead, he called on Congress to make it a crime to buy, sell, and possess the most commonly sold centerfire rifles and ammunition magazines in the country.
We’ve yet to see a legislative version of Biden’s proposed gun and magazine ban introduced in Congress, even though he declared it to be one of his top priorities on the campaign trail in 2020. Biden’s plan calls for not only banning the future sales of modern sporting rifles and ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, but a requirement that current gun owners either hand over their prohibited items to the federal government in exchange for some sort of cash stipend or register their firearms under the National Firearms Act with the promise that they could keep them afterwards.
It’s doubtful that Biden could get 60 senators to sign off on his proposal, but with a number of Democrats agitating to get rid of the Senate filibuster there’s going to be more pressure placed on Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to end his objections and allow for the passage of gun control with just 51 votes. Manchin has repeatedly stated that, though he’s willing to engage in some “reform” of the filibuster, he still wants to see the 60-vote threshold remain in place. Expect the arm-twisting and the backroom lobbying of the senator to ramp up in the coming days, however, as he’s the biggest barrier between Biden and the enactment of his gun ban at the moment.
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