DENVER – Congressman Joe Neguse, the Democrat who represents the district that includes Boulder, led a letter to President Joe Biden Thursday calling for him to issue an executive order banning the importation of assault weapons, including some semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Also signing onto the letter were Colorado’s three other Democratic members of the House of Representatives — Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow — and 60 others. Neguse co-led the letter with Illinois Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly.
“As our nation battles the health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we simultaneously must combat the persistent and rising violence caused by access to dangerous firearms,” the letter states. “America has suffered seven mass killings in this year alone, including in Atlanta last week and in Boulder just three days ago, where 10 victims tragically lost their lives.”
The letter only asks for the president to ban the importation of some of the weapons and ammunition, as Congress would have to act to reinstate an assault weapons ban, like the one that was in effect from 1994 to 2004.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show 572,309 rifles were imported in 2017, for which the most recent data could be found. That was down from a peak of 1.5 million in 2013. The National Shooting Sports Foundation said that around 301,000 rifles were imported in 2019.
Biden said on Tuesday that “we should do it again” with respect to another assault weapons ban.
“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense measures,” on gun control, the president said. He also urged the Senate to pass two House bills that would close loopholes in the background check system.
“We have to act,” Biden said.
The president was asked about possible action on gun control during his first press conference on Thursday and said that acting was “a matter of timing.”
“As you’ve all observed, successful presidents better than me have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they’re doing. Order it,” he said.
The letter from the House members says that banning imports “will lessen the devastating impact of gun violence in communities across our nation.”
An affidavit for the arrest of the Boulder shooting suspect said he was found to have bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol six days before the shooting and was found with two firearms at the scene of the shooting.
Neguse again Thursday, as he said Wednesday during a call with Boulder leaders, said that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and pass more gun violence measures.
“As we work to enact these measures, there are steps the administration can take immediately that will also help save lives, which is why we are calling on President Biden to immediately issue an executive order banning the importation of military-style assault weapons.”
Neguse also reiterated his call from earlier this month for Biden to appoint a national director of gun violence prevention and task that person with cutting the number of people killed by guns in half over the next 10 years.
Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver said on an appearance on CNN Wednesday that when he spoke with Biden, the president regretted that the 1994 assault weapons ban sunset after 10 years.
“Then we talked some about what steps could be taken at the federal level to make sure that things like this just don’t happen to other communities,” Weaver said.
Neguse, along with federal and state lawmakers from Colorado, all said there were discussions underway about introducing new gun violence legislation, or passing current legislation, during a discussion on Wednesday.
Sen. Michael Bennet said he was ashamed of the political leadership in Washington for not acting sooner and said he would be working with other lawmakers to pass legislation for tougher background checks and limits on gun magazines.
Rep. Jason Crow said in an interview Wednesday that he is pushing the Senate to take up the House-passed legislation that would close the gun-show and Charleston loopholes regarding background checks and said only a strong push by Congress would put pressure on the gun industry.
“Let’s remember that there is no other industry, none, that has been is free from regulation and oversight and legislation as the gun lobby. There’s been more consumer safety and oversight on power tools. There’s more oversight on toy guns than there are on real guns. That’s wrong and it’s got to stop,” Crow said.
At the state level, Democrats say they are not waiting for federal action but are still working to decide on what legislation they might take up. Colorado passed a ban on high-capacity magazines in 2013 and passed a red flag law in 2019, and has a firearm background check requirement in place.
The legislature is already considering a safe storage requirement bill and another that would require firearm owners to report lost or stolen guns within five days.
Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said he believes “there is no single solution to this problem” and that fact should not be “an excuse to not do anything.”
"It's trauma that keeps happening over and over again, but we have to act responsibly and thoughtfully so what we introduce — and we will be introducing legislation in response to this — but it has to be responsible," said state Rep. Edie Hooten, D-Boulder, during Wednesday’s call.
Correction: This story has been corrected to show that the letter would ask Biden to ban assault weapons, which would potentially include some semi-automatic rifles, not all semi-automatic rifles.