Colorado lawmakers and White House officials insisted Tuesday morning that “thoughts and prayers” were insufficient in the aftermath of a deadly supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colo., instead urging the Senate to take quick action on gun reform legislation recently passed by the House.
“The victims and the survivors of these tragedies are always going to have my thoughts. They’re always going to have my prayers. But my job is to make laws,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) told CNN of the rampage at a crowded King Soopers grocery store Monday afternoon — which killed 10 people, including the first police officer to arrive on the scene.
The necessary response from congressional lawmakers and other federal officials “isn’t rocket science,” Crow said. “We actually know exactly what we need to do. We have been studying this for a long time. There are common-sense laws and legislation that we can pass that will help make our communities safer. We just have to get them done. It’s that simple,” he said.
The tragedy in Boulder is the second high-profile mass shooting in the United States in less than a week, following the series of attacks on three Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent. Both shootings came shortly after the Democrat-controlled House passed a pair of bills earlier this month to require background checks on all firearms sales and transfers and to allow an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases.
On Tuesday, Crow argued that the onus was now “on the Senate” to approve those measures and send them to the White House. “We passed some common-sense legislation in the House. President Biden has said he’s looking for common-sense legislation. There are things that he’d be willing to sign into law today if it was put on his desk. It’s sitting in the Senate,” he said.
Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, also addressed the Boulder shooting Tuesday morning. He told MSNBC that “the regular sentiment of ‘hearts and prayers’ are not enough,” and he referred to the two House-passed gun reform bills as “just a step.”
“The good news is that this president has a track record of fighting against the NRA and beating them,” Richmond said. “And we need to make sure that we have sensible gun regulations in this country to ensure safety. And so we need action, not just words and prayers.”
In brief remarks to reporters Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris described the violence in Boulder as “absolutely baffling,” saying: “It’s 10 people going about their day, living their lives, not bothering anybody. A police officer who is performing his duties, and with great courage and heroism.”
Local law enforcement officials have taken one suspect into custody in relation to the Boulder shooting, and they are expected to conduct a news conference later Tuesday morning. A motive has not yet been released.
The violence in Boulder came after a relative dearth of mass shootings over the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the killings also represent just the latest in a long line of high-profile shootings to have taken place in Colorado in recent years.
Crow, whose district encompasses many of Denver’s eastern suburbs, noted Tuesday that he was “a member of Congress that represents a community that has seen multiple mass shootings” — including those at Columbine High School in 1999, an Aurora movie theater in 2012 and STEM School Highlands Ranch in 2019.
“When people think about these places and say those names, they think of those shootings,” Crow said. “I think of those families, those kids, the faces of the parents that I have to console, that I’m going to have to talk to today about this issue. This is a trauma that our community, my community continues to experience. And every time this happens, we get retraumatized. Enough is enough.”
On Monday night, both of Colorado’s U.S. senators issued statements calling for a congressional response to the Boulder shooting. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said “there are steps that the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to take,” and Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) tweeted: “We need federal action. Now.”
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), whose district includes Boulder and the King Soopers where the killings occurred, said in his own statement Monday that if lawmakers “are truly invested in saving lives, then we must have the willpower to act and to pass meaningful gun reform. The time for inaction is over.”
The two House gun reform bills approved this month are similar in form to the sweeping legislation Democrats passed in 2019 — shortly after retaking the chamber’s majority in the 2018 midterms — seeking to mandate federal criminal background checks on all firearms sales, including private transactions.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) never advanced that measure. But after the 2020 election, with the White House and the Senate now in Democratic control, reform advocates are hopeful that Congress can finally pass comprehensive solutions to what they characterize as a uniquely American epidemic of gun violence.
But even with a Democratic majority, Senate consideration of the House gun reform bills will certainly be complicated by the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster rule, which Biden has shown greater openness to revising in recent weeks as he moves to enact his agenda.
The politics of gun reform in the 21st century have plagued Democrats since at least 2012, when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting prompted former President Barack Obama to push for new federal firearms legislation. But those White House-backed measures were quashed in the Senate, and the subsequent reform efforts of recent years have similarly stagnated.
Biden, who headed the Obama administration’s ultimately unsuccessful gun task force in the wake of Sandy Hook, has repeatedly boasted about his ability to take on the National Rifle Association and win. Indeed, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he helped author the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in the 1994 crime bill.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden expressed support for a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks and the creation of a national firearm registry. Americans broadly favor all of those measures, according to public polling.