Boulder mass-murder suspect identified as White House signals gun-control response

A horrorshow of violence in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado ended with ten people dead, including one police officer, and the wounded suspect in custody. The mass shooting prompted renewed calls for gun control at the state and federal level, while much about the shooting itself still remains murky. This morning, the police identified the suspect as Ahmad al-Issa, who is reportedly a foreign national but also a long-time US resident:

A gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers in Boulder on Monday afternoon, the latest in a grim litany of mass shootings in Colorado — this one including among its victims a police officer who was first to respond to reports of shots fired at the grocery store.

The suspect was taken into custody, but there were few answers in the following hours. Officials said it would take days to investigate the large crime scene and to notify families that their loved ones had been killed. …

Two roommates who were buying pizza at the self-checkout watched the shooter come into the store. “He just came in and started shooting” without saying a word, one of them told The Denver Post on condition of anonymity to avoid national media attention. His roommate said the gunman “let off a couple of shots, then was silent, and then he let off a couple more. He wasn’t spraying.”

The name of the suspect has different variants in media reports. The 21-year-old is also known as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, Yahoo reports, so expect to see either of those or perhaps other variations as well. As for motivation, the Arabic name is sure to prompt some knee-jerk speculation about terrorism, but that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with his actions. His brother Ali tells the Daily Beast that the suspect as “very anti-social” and paranoid:

Authorities on Tuesday identified the suspect in the shooting deaths of 10 people at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, whose brother said he was deeply disturbed. …

Alissa described his brother as “very anti-social” and paranoid, adding that, in high school, he would describe “being chased, someone is behind him, someone is looking for him.”

“When he was having lunch with my sister in a restaurant, he said, ‘People are in the parking lot, they are looking for me.’ She went out, and there was no one. We didn’t know what was going on in his head,” Alissa said, admitting that he believes his brother is mentally ill.

The issue in this shooting, like several others, is more likely to be mental illness rather than domestic terrorism or background-check issues. That hasn’t stopped members of Congress from launching new efforts to push gun control as a major project in the Biden administration:

The White House signaled that it’s on board (via Bearing Arms):

The President’s team has met with gun control advocates over the past two months to discuss potential executive actions and to generate ideas on potential paths forward, according to people familiar with the meetings. Those meetings have been led by Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council and Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Richmond, speaking on MSNBC on Tuesday morning, said: “The regular sentiment of hearts and prayers are not enough.”

“We need action on this in the country,” he said, pointing to recently passed legislation in the House. “This President has a track record of fighting against the NRA and beating them, and we need to make sure that we have sensible gun regulations in this country to ensure safety. And so we need action, not just words and prayers.”

Among the executive actions Biden could advance include requiring background checks on “ghost guns” that don’t have serial numbers or strengthening the federal background check system to alert law enforcement agencies when someone fails a check. Biden has also said he will task the attorney general with better enforcement of existing gun laws. And advocates have raised the idea of sending more federal money to communities afflicted by gun violence.

At the moment, though, these are gun-control agenda items rather than a rational response to the shooting in Boulder. Did it involve a “ghost gun”? A gap in background checks? A lack of enforcement on attempts at illegal purchases, which really is a good idea for better control on legal sales? No one knows, which means that policy debates are pointless at the moment.

As Tom Knighton writes this morning, all we really know is that we’re about to have the same old debate in the same old dark:

So it sounds like he was definitely armed with some kind of rifle, though whether it was an AR or some other kind of rifle is unclear. Beyond that, this is a fluid situation. We’re probably going to get conflicting reports over the next few days, which is to be expected when information is flying at us like it does after these situations.

What we do know is that the gun debate is about to heat up. I’m like Cam, I really don’t want to get into the politics in the immediate aftermath of a situation like this, I differ from him in that I don’t see how we can afford not to.

Dig in. This is going to get bumpy.

Yes, but we can de-escalate the bumps at least a bit by reminding people that any public-policy response should wait for facts in this case to be established. After that, we can test whether these proposals would have actually prevented or minimized this shooting or any others. That is how we get rational public policy, as opposed to knee-jerk reactions that solve nothing.

In the meantime, we can pray for all of the victims, their families, and especially the law-enforcement officers of Boulder, Colorado.

Update: I have corrected the headline; the shooting took place in Boulder, not Denver.