‘If not now, when?’: Democrat Jared Polis calls for tighter gun laws in wake of Las Vegas massacre

Author: Ernest Luning - October 2, 2017 - Updated: October 2, 2017

Investigators load bodies from the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Investigators load bodies from the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, on Monday urged Congress to pass stricter gun control measures in the wake of a mass shooting overnight in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead and more than 500 injured.

“I am devastated and horrified, but not shocked,” said Polis in a statement. “Mass shootings must not become the new normal. While I am praying for the victims and everyone affected, I am also calling on my fellow members of Congress to act. If not now, when? We can save lives while protecting our Second Amendment rights.”

Polis, a candidate in next year’s Democratic primary for governor, pointed to his co-sponsorship of the bipartisan Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to require background checks for gun buyers, as well as support for a resolution establishing a congressional panel on preventing gun violence.

Republicans and gun rights advocates routinely say Democrats and gun control supporters have been too quick to politicize mass shootings.

President Donald Trump condemned the attack as “an act of pure evil,” while White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that it was inappropriate to discuss gun laws the aftermath of the shooting. “There is a time and place for political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” she said in a Monday briefing.

The massacre Sunday night at a country music festival ranked as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It surpassed a June 2016 shooting when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.

Polis’ fellow members of Colorado’s congressional delegation expressed horror at the shooting and offered support for the victims and gratitude to emergency personnel.

“The heartbreaking news out of Las Vegas today is sending shock waves around our nation,” U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, said in a statement. “I’m horrified by this act of evil committed against innocent concert goers, and I join Colorado and the nation in prayer for the victims and first responders. Colorado stands with Las Vegas; we grieve with all families affected. May God bless everyone affected by this horrific event.”

Numerous Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords — injured in a 2011 shooting while meeting constituents — also asked House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday to create a commission to examine gun violence and propose legislation.

“I urge you to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence to study and report back common sense legislation to help end this crisis. The bipartisan committee would make recommendations to prevent unspeakable tragedies such as the mass shooting in Las Vegas and to restore confidence in the safety of our communities,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Ryan.

In 2015, following the mass shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, Polis wrote an article detailing his approach to preventing gun violence, including comprehensive background checks, allowing public health research into the root causes of gun violence, and prohibiting firearm purchases by those on the FBI terrorism watch list.

“People who know me know I don’t shy away from protecting our Second Amendment rights,” Polis wrote. “I believe that law-abiding Americans who will use guns lawfully — for protection and sport — should be able to do so, and I will continue to defend that right. But what I’ve never supported — and never will support — are efforts to use the Second Amendment as a smokescreen for opposing common-sense safety measures that are entirely consistent with our rights.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.