Biden Drafts Gun Agenda While Acknowledging Weak Links to Tragedies
The White House took aim at gun-rights groups today with the second day of a rash of meetings intended to roll recent mass shootings into a sharp gun-control agenda for President Obama's second term.
After meetings with various stakeholders, Vice President Joe Biden promised to have his recommendations to Obama by Tuesday -- less than a week before Inauguration Day.
"There's an emerging set of recommendations, not coming from me but coming from the groups we've met with. And I'm going to focus on the ones that relates primarily to gun ownership and the type of weapons that can be owned," Biden said at his first meeting of the day, with sportsmen and wildlife groups.
The veep followed this up by meeting with gun owners' groups in the afternoon, then with entertainment industry representatives in the early evening.
The National Rifle Association lashed out at its meeting as an agenda-pushing roundtable. "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment," the group said in a statement. "While claiming that no policy proposals would be 'prejudged,' this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners -- honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans."
"We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of Congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works -- and what does not."
Biden boasted of meeting with a wide swathe of groups in preparing his recommendations, from the Boys & Girls Club to domestic-violence prevention, from the American Bar Association to the Rotary Club. Yesterday's sit-downs also included physicians, school board members and teachers, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“We are having the conversation the American public wants us to have. Conversations are needed regarding assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and changing social norms, as well as, the very important need for comprehensive background checks -- supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members," Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said of the meeting that was also attended by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Gross said the administration's commitment "is evident in not only their words, but also their actions."
It was actually the second time the Brady Campaign has been at the White House since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting: just four days after Sandy Hook, the gun-control lobbying group met with Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. The next day, Obama announced the formation of the task force led by Biden.
On Wednesday, Biden also met with 17 religious leaders, a meeting he characterized as "the first time there has been an overwhelming consensus from the evangelical groups nationwide, particularly those from rural areas, to the National Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Muslim community, because this does have a significant moral dimension to it, how we make American communities safer and how we go about it."
Yet with the clear current events hook at play -- and Democrats from Congress to statehouses making the rounds on news shows to press that point -- Biden acknowledged that current gun control propositions don't necessarily even have a link to the spate of mass shootings over the past year.
"If you look at every one of the tragic events that have attracted so much attention, it's hard to be able to pinpoint what you could have done to assure it wouldn't have happened," Biden said.
"But there's also things we know. We know that there's certain actions we take that have diminished, have diminished the extent of the gun violence that otherwise would be occurring in the United States."
The hints about the recommendations dropped by Biden mirrored what gun-control advocates on Capitol Hill have been pushing for in the wake of Newtown -- universal background checks that don't vary from state to state (including at gun shows and person-to-person sales), fixing a backlog of felons yet to be entered in the system for background checks, and restricting the size of gun magazines.
Biden said he's been surprised to see former Senate colleagues -- not referred to by name -- "who have been pretty universally opposed to any restrictions on gun ownership or what type of weapons can be purchased, et cetera, there is -- I've never heard quite as much about the need to do something about high-capacity magazines as I've heard spontaneously from every group that we've met with so far."
He also indicated that the recommendations could include stricter mental health checks, stiffer gun penalties in school zones, and new federal agency research on gun violence.
"One of the things that we're prohibited from doing beginning in the early part of this century, about 2004, is just even the Centers for Disease Control gathering up information about the kinds of injuries, and what are the injuries and what are the source of the injuries," Biden said.
There was no information from the Justice Department to indicate how Holder's meeting went today with retail chains who sell guns -- Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunham’s Sports, Gander Mountain, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Wal-Mart.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a member of Mayors against Illegal Guns who could also be eyeing a cabinet position in Obama's second term, said the proposals -- along with renewing the assault weapons ban -- are "a good place to start."
While endorsing the slate of measures, including "the cracks in the cheese" known as gun-show loopholes, though, Villaraigosa acknowledged the efficacy of guns in the hands of the right people on campuses.
"What happened in Newtown, what's happening over the last couple of years across the country in terms of -- these mass shootings, they need to be stopped. We need to do something about the violence. And not just responsible control laws," he said on MSNBC. "I've said, as well, in L.A. is an example. We have our police officers patrolling every school, visiting the schools on a daily basis."