WASHINGTON – With another community grieving in the aftermath of the second mass shooting in a week, a Senate hearing set for Tuesday on gun violence gains new urgency.
On Monday evening, a gunman opened fire into a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, killing ten people, including one police officer. Officials did not disclose the identity of a man seen being led away from the store in handcuffs but said he was the only person to receive nonfatal injuries.
“While there is still a lot we do not yet know, one thing is very clear — tragic incidents of gun violence have plagued our country for far too long,” Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., who represents Boulder in Congress, said in a statement Monday.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. There are steps we can take — and must take — to protect our community; common-sense, broadly supported proposals that will save lives,” the congressman urged.
The shooting comes less than a week after a gunman opened fire on local businesses near Atlanta, killing eight people, six of whom were Asian American women. The attacks have been called a hate crime by many and sparked national grief and outrage.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence.”
“In the week leading up to this hearing, two mass shootings have left the nation reeling,” Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, tweeted Monday evening. “And it’s not just mass shootings: according to the CDC, on average, 109 Americans lose their lives every day to gun violence. It’s long past time to act on this nation’s gun violence epidemic,” the senator noted.
Over 41,000 people were killed in 2020 by gun violence, a record that experts say was driven by the public health, economic and social fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
House passed 2 bills on background checks on March 11
The hearing follows House passage on March 11 of two pieces of legislation, as well as the merits of greater gun control more generally. Both bills would face a steep uphill battle in the evenly divided Senate, where most Republicans have expressed opposition to the legislation.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would expand background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms. The legislation would expand the cases in which a background check is required for the sale or transfer of a firearm, including for private individuals and groups, closing the “Gun Show Loophole.” The requirements would apply to online sales.
The bill passed the House by a margin of 227-203. It received eight Republican votes, and one Democrat voted against it.
The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 would similarly close the “Charleston loophole,” a gap in federal law that lets gun sales proceed without a completed background check if three businesses days have passed.
It is linked to a shooting in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist used the loophole to obtain firearms he used to kill nine Black people during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church. The bill would extend the initial background check review period from three to 10 days.
The legislation was passed 219-210 with two Democrats opposed and two Republicans in support.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a longtime gun control advocate, declared Monday night, “This is the moment to make our stand. NOW,” on gun control legislation in Congress, arguing that a political moment favorable to stronger gun control legislation had finally come.