A hearing on gun reform measures in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning turned not-unexpectedly tense.
It came one day after 10 people, including a police officer, were killed when a gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Colo. A suspect, identified as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is in custody and charged with 10 counts of murder in the first degree. Authorities have not shared information on a possible motive for the shooting, which itself came just days after eight people, mostly Asian women, were shot and killed at three spas in the Atlanta area.
At Tuesday's hearing, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz vented over the flurry of legislative activity again following a mass shooting. He declared that every time there is a shooting, the Senate engages in “ridiculous theater.”
First, though, Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal accused Republicans of having no tangible solution to gun violence.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Blumenthal said. “And yet, thoughts and prayers is all we have heard from my colleagues on the other side. Thoughts and prayers must lead to action.”
That brought some pushback from Cruz, a Republican.
“I agree it is time for us to do something. And Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater,” he said. “I don’t apologize for thoughts or prayers. I will lift up in prayer people who are hurting, and I believe in the power of prayer and the contempt of Democrats for prayers is an odd sociological thing.”
But, he said, "we already know this pattern is predictable, over and over and over again.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said part of the problem is police funding. In the aftermath of the reckoning with race and mass protests over the death of George Floyd last year, some lawmakers and police critics pushed to "defund" police, or shift resources from them to other entities and agencies that could help undertake some community programs.
“We cannot reduce violence in our communities without a professional, well-trained and fully funded police force,” said the Iowa lawmaker.
The hearing had been scheduled before the Colorado shooting.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for action.
Biden urged the Senate to immediately pass two House-passed gun reforms, including a universal background checks measure and an assault weapons ban. And, according to Fox News, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden is also weighing executive action on gun control as another way to go.
"We are considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive action," Psaki told reporters without elaboration, according to the Fox report. "That has been under discussion and will continue to be under discussion."
Pelosi in a press conference said, “action is needed now to prevent this scourge from continuing to ravage our communities.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed Tuesday morning to bring 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 action by lawmakers on the issue for almost three decades.
"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future," Biden said in remarks from the White House.
"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 that close loopholes in the background check system. These are bills that received votes with both Republicans and Democrats in the House.
"This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. We have to act," he added.
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