Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged the Senate will take on gun control measures in the wake of Monday’s Boulder, Colo., mass shooting that left 10 people dead, including a police officer.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate will specifically move to expand gun background checks — an effort that has long evaded passage in the upper chamber.
“The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” Schumer said during a floor speech Tuesday. “Today our hearts are with the people of Colorado and with everyone whose lives have been touched by gun violence.”
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Schumer mentioned the mass shooting at a Boulder grocery store came just days after a gunman went on a shooting spree in Atlanta that left eight people dead.
“We cannot seem to finish grieving one tragedy before another takes place,” Schumer said. “It is a reminder that we must confront a devastating truth in the United States: an unrelenting epidemic of gun violence steals innocent lives with alarming regularity.”
While mass shootings haven’t been in the headlines as much during the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered schools, concert venues and nightclubs for much of the last year, gun deaths have still spiked in the United States.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, at least 19,223 people lost their lives due to gun violence in 2020, NPR reports. The increase is almost a 25% jump from 2019.
“2020 was one of the deadliest years for gun violence in two decades, a reminder that most gun violence doesn’t even make headlines, but nonetheless causes immeasurable devastation to communities from one end of our country to the other,” Schumer said. “So we have a lot of work to do.”
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The House passed an expansion of gun background checks in March. The two bills expand federal gun background checks on all firearms sales and extend the background check review period from three days to a minimum of 10 business days.
The Senate tried several times before to pass background check reforms but each time fell short of the 60 votes needed. One serious attempt occurred in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that left 26 people dead, including 20 young children.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., led a bipartisan effort to close commercial background check loopholes, but their effort fell six votes short of passage.
The margins are even tighter now in the Senate with the chamber equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, who have largely opposed stricter gun control measures.
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Still, Schumer said the Senate will try again on universal background checks while knocking former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to launch a debate two years ago on gun violence when he was in charge.
“This Senate will be different,” Schumer said.