Tanzina Vega: On Monday afternoon, a gunman in Boulder, Colorado opened fire in a King Soopers supermarket, killing 10 people.
Speaker 1: I barricaded one of my co-workers behind multiple trash cans.
Speaker 2: Everyone was just running out the back dock and jumping over the ledges, like flooding down the stairs.
Speaker 3: I think about the unimaginable pain of their families. I grieve over the loss of the feeling of safety in our community.
Speaker 4: We will get through this together, and we will do so by leaning on each other. We will get through this by remembering every person we lost and love every person we need even more.
Tanzina Vega: Those were interviews with Boulder residents and community leaders following the shooting, courtesy of The AP. The Kings Soopers shooting is the latest in a list of high-profile mass shootings in Colorado, which include the 1999 shooting and Columbine High School, the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, and the 2015 shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. Overall, Colorado ranks eighth in the nation for mass shootings, but policy on gun control remains limited. I'm Tanzina Vega, and the future of gun policy in Colorado is where we start today on The Takeaway. Representative Diana DeGette, serving Colorado's first congressional district is with us. Representative DeGette was elected in 1996, having represented that state during these three horrific events. Congresswoman, it's great to have you with us.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Tanzina, great being with you.
Tanzina Vega: This is not the first shooting you've lived through since you've been in office. When you see the events unfold in Boulder, what are your immediate thoughts having witnessed Columbine and others?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, everybody who has been around the shootings, it's really PTSD for all of us. It's just, "This can't be happening again." I was a very new Congressperson when Columbine happened, and now Columbine is in my congressional district. I just remember sitting there watching with horror, the whole event unfold, and then, of course, Aurora, Planned Parenthood, there been a couple of other smaller ones that didn't even get covered on the national press, and now of course Boulder. Everybody knows somebody who was there or somebody who goes there. That's a very popular grocery store in Boulder. The circles get wider and wider, and pretty soon, the whole state is just grieving over it.
Tanzina Vega: What are you hearing from your constituents about the shooting?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: People are angry, as always. People are very sad. They're committed to supporting their friends in Boulder, and of course, in my district, they're re-committed to comprehensive gun safety legislation, which I've worked on, not just in Congress, but even back when I was in the state legislature in the mid-1990s. It's very difficult because we're pushing against the gun groups, the NRA, and the other ones who have a really extraordinarily disproportionate amount of power among, particularly Republican politicians.
Tanzina Vega: We know, Congresswoman that the NRA, in particular, has been significantly weakened in terms of its financial power and others. Does this go beyond the NRA's influence?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, having had a broad historical view of this, I do think the NRA has been weakened, and I do think that the public has become much more supportive of common-sense gun safety regulations, but I still think that in parts of the country, the gun lobby, including the gun manufacturers, has a disproportionate amount of influence. I do think over time is changing. Unfortunately, it's just not changing fast enough to save those 10 people in Boulder this week, or the 8 people in Atlanta last week.
Tanzina Vega: What is your message to the residents of Colorado who-- Americans across the country are reliving the fear of being in everyday public spaces, but what is your message to the residents of Colorado who've been at movie theaters, at high school, at supermarkets and it increasingly feels that no place is safe?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, one of the problems that we have is that we have these high-capacity magazines and these assault rifles. For example, Boulder and also in the Aurora theater, where you might have somebody who's mentally ill or deranged, they go in, well, if they had had a pistol, they might have been able to shoot one or two people before the police rushed in because in both Aurora and in Boulder, the police were there within moments. In Boulder, of course, the police officer was immediately shot. In Aurora, you had actually military personnel who were in the movie theater who couldn't stop the shooter.
Obviously, we need to strengthen our mental health counseling, we need to do everything we can as a society to identify folks. We need to have background checks and waiting periods, but if we start now working on eliminating these assault rifles and the high-capacity magazines, at least you could eliminate the carnage that happens when you have a shooter go into one of these places.
Tanzina Vega: We're speaking with Congresswoman Diana DeGette from Colorado about the recent shootings there. This is The Takeaway. Congresswoman, I'd like to play you a clip from December 2012. This was days after a horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed more than 20 people, most of them children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: I'm Congresswoman Diana DeGette from the 1s District of Colorado. Columbine's in my district now, and Aurora is right down the street from my house. As you can hear from all of us, and as you can see on our faces, even today, the horror of Newtown remains unspeakable. As Congressman McCarthy said, we've been here before, over and over again--
Tanzina Vega: Congresswoman, many people said that if the events that Sandy Hook couldn't make gun policy change, then nothing would be able to. In that clip, the exasperation is clear how we've been here over and over and over again, and yet nothing seems to happen. Let's talk about policy in Colorado. There are mandatory background checks, but a court blocked a measure to ban assault weapons just days before this latest shooting. Is it realistic to expect gun policy reform, at least in the state of Colorado?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, I was just talking with some of our state legislators yesterday, and they are looking at ways to bolster our gun safety legislation. The reason why the Boulder court blocked that provision was because there's a supremacy clause in this state statute that says that local governments can't go beyond that.
Now, in Denver, which is my district, we don't have assault rifles. I think that you could strengthen the laws. When I heard that clip you just played. For me, it sounds like something I might say today, but I will say that after Sandy Hook, it was so horrifying, but there have been positive things that happened. As I say, they just didn't happen very fast. A lot of the parents and a lot of advocacy groups have gotten much, much more powerful. Of course, after the terrible shooting of my former colleague Gabby Giffords, she started a gun safety group. They've been enormously powerful too. Over time, the movement is developing momentum. As I say, it's just so frustratingly slow. Even though the public agrees with us on many of these gun safety measures, it's difficult to get it through the legislative bodies.
Tanzina Vega: Congresswoman, Colorado ranks eighth in the country for experiencing mass shootings. Why is it? Why do these keep happening in the state of Colorado? Is there something that we need to understand about it? Or is it purely a function of gun laws that need to be updated?
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, as you said, Colorado has more gun safety laws than many states do, which have fewer mass shootings than we do. In fact, what I was talking about with the legislators and some of the rest of the Congressional
delegation yesterday, was the idea of trying to do some study or put together a panel to see why this happens in Colorado because we really don't have any idea. Boulder is a very quiet, progressive college town. The idea that something like this would happen in a grocery store in Boulder is just unthinkable to us.
I was asked the other day by a reporter how you could tell the difference between people who were carrying their weapons safely and weren't in a grocery store. I think this reporter was assuming everybody out here in Colorado walks around carrying assault rifles, and that's just not true. I've never seen anybody carrying a gun in a grocery store in Denver or in Boulder. We just can't figure out why this is happening in places like this.
Tanzina Vega: What kind of change are you hoping to see in light of this shooting? You've been talking about change for decades now. What do you think is going to happen as a result of this? Is there enough? You mentioned that the public is changing its view on guns and gun violence, but we're still at a place where real systemic change hasn't happened yet.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Well, the US House just passed two bills last week on background checks on strengthening background checks, and that would really help. It would help with criminals and also people with mental health issues. Those bills have gone to the Senate. We hope that there will be some movement over in the Senate, and then we're going to continue to work on our other legislation. I have a bill with Congressman Ted Deutch on the high-capacity magazines. Of course, he's got the Pulse nightclub in his district. Then banning the assault rifles. We're just going to keep pushing that.
Another big difference is we now have Joe Biden in the White House. When Joe Biden was in the Senate, one of his big issues was banning assault rifles. We have hopes that we now have a majority in the house who will pass gun safety legislation. We're going to have to work on the Senate but then we have a president who wasn't afraid to get up at a press conference this week and say, "We need gun safety legislation." We can't give up because as I said, we have hundreds of people right here in Colorado and their families, and everybody who are still traumatized by all of these shootings. We're going to keep fighting for this until justice wins out.
Tanzina Vega: Congresswoman Diana DeGette represents Colorado's 1st Congressional District. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Thanks for having me.
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