Democrats said they are pushing toward a vote on expanded gun control measures as the nation reels from its second mass shooting in a week. President Joe Biden said “we have to act”, but prospects for any major changes were dim, for now, in the closely divided Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Tuesday to bring to the Senate floor legislation passed by the House that would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers. He said the Senate “must confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades. “This Senate will be different,” Schumer, Democrat, said a day after a shooting at a crowded Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, killed 10 people. “The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”
While a Senate vote on new gun control would be the first in several years, Democrats deep enough support among Republicans to pass gun control legislation in the 50-50 Senate as they would need 60 votes to do so. They are not even united themselves, as Democrat Senator Joe Manchin said that he opposes the House legislation on background checks.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on proposals for gun control. It is unclear whether any of the bills up for consideration — most of them involving more restrictive background checks — would have made a difference in the Colorado case. A 21-year-old man charged with killing eight people in the Atlanta last week had purchased a 9 mm handgun hours before the murders.
Biden on Tuesday urged Congress to move quickly to close the loopholes in the background check system and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. According to a police affidavit, the Colorado shooter had purchased an assault rifle six days earlier. Vice-President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday that Biden would not exclude taking executive action on gun control measures, but “if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation”. “Slaughters have to stop,” she told CBS news