A somber Joe Biden said Tuesday that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were "devastated" over Monday's supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colorado — the country's second mass shooting in public in less than a week.
Local authorities say 10 people were killed Monday afternoon in the University of Colorado town, six days after a shooting spree in Georgia killed eight people, including six Asian women, at three spas.
"While the flag was still flying half-staff for the tragedy, another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma," the president, whose aides often cast him in the role of consoler-in-chief, said Tuesday as he delivered another unexpected address mourning shooting victims.
"I even hate to even say it, because we're saying it so often, but my heart goes out," he continued.
Biden, 78, said the White House will continue to keep flags at half-staff to honor the victims of gun violence.
"I just can't imagine how the families are feeling and the victims whose futures were stolen from them," he said.
He vowed to use every tool available to him to combat gun violence and implored lawmakers to pass legislation, such as two bills that would restrict the sale of automatic weapons and increase background checks on individuals purchasing a weapon.
Gun reform has long been stymied by a deeply divided Congress: Democrats calling for change and Republicans opposing them.
Data from the Gun Violence Archive shows gun violence increased significantly in 2020, though there were no mass shootings — most frequently defined as a shooting that kills four or more people — amid widespread shutdowns and social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grocery store and spa massacres were the first mass shootings in public places in a year.
The two previous years saw the most mass shootings in public places on record, with 10 mass shootings in 2018 and nine in 2019, according to Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a co-founder of the Violence Project, who spoke to The New York Times.
Peterson told the Times that, since some shooters mimic the actions of other killers, the media's constant coverage of the coronavirus and a lack of high-profile mass shootings may also have contributed to fewer public mass shootings.
Prior to the recent mass shootings, during the year-long lull, "There had been a hope that maybe we broke the cycle and maybe we won't return," said Peterson. "Now that it's back, a number of scholars are really concerned."
A judge reportedly blocked a ban on assault weapons in Boulder 10 days before Monday's shooting, according to The Denver Post, despite the local city council having unanimously passed a ban preventing the sale of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in 2018.
"I don't need to wait another minute — let alone an hour — to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and the Senate to act," Biden said on Tuesday.
He pressed lawmakers to follow suit.
"The Senate should immediately pass — let me say it again — the United States Senate, I hope some are listening, should immediately pass the two House passed bills to close loopholes in the background checks system," Biden said.
"It should not be a partisan issue; it's an American issue," he said. "It will save lives. American lives. We have to act."
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