WASHINGTON. – The second deadly US mass shooting in a week is putting new pressure on President Joe Biden to deliver on the gun control promises he made as a candidate.
A gunman on Monday killed 10 people, including a police officer, at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, just six days after another gunman fatally shot eight people at Atlanta-area day spas.
“It’s absolutely baffling. 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,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Tuesday.
Biden, who took office in January, faces an uphill battle in winning congressional passage of gun-related measures he pledged during his presidential campaign.
The United States has the world’s highest rate of civilian gun ownership, RAND Corp research shows. There were more than 43,000 US gun deaths last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“I’ve beaten the National Rifle Association nationally twice, passed meaningful gun legislation at the federal level, and I’ll do it again,” Biden said last year at one of several campaign events focused on the issue, referring to the influential gun rights group closely aligned with Republicans.
“As president, I promise you I will get these weapons of war off the street again,” Biden added, referring to a national ban on assault-style weapons that lapsed in 2004.
Biden is expected to address the Colorado shooting later on Tuesday.
The numerous US mass shootings have failed to prompt lawmakers to pass gun control legislation, thanks in large part to opposition from congressional Republicans and the NRA.
The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment and many Americans cherish gun rights.
Nearly 70% of Americans support adding “strong or moderate” federal gun restrictions, and ideas such as background checks and databases to track ownership have even greater public support, a 2019 Reuters poll found.
Biden’s fellow Democrats hold only slim majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The House on March 11 passed two bills that would broaden background checks for gun buyers, but the legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Most legislation requires 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to move forward. With Republicans holding 50 seats, reaching that threshold appears difficult.
A Senate panel held a hearing on gun issues on Tuesday. Biden has not put forth his own legislation but issued statements of support for the House-passed bills and called for Senate passage.
Any potential gun control measures passed by Congress would almost certainly face a legal challenge that could reach the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority is seen as sympathetic to an expansive view of gun rights.