Forget about 'political survival' in gun debate, Biden says
February 21st, 2013
03:18 PM ET
2 years ago

Forget about 'political survival' in gun debate, Biden says

(CNN) - Political risk shouldn't matter one bit when it comes to combating gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden argued Thursday at a conference in Danbury, Connecticut–a city just west of Newtown, where a gunman massacred 20 children and seven adults, including his mother, in December.

As the National Rifle Association continues to beef up its campaign and rhetoric against the Obama administration's gun proposals, Biden warned his colleagues on Capitol Hill not to succumb to the group's power and money.

"If you're concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned about the survival of our children," Biden said, arguing that those who "refuse to act" are the ones who should pay politically. "Because America has changed on this issue. You should all know the American people are with us."

He continued: "There is a moral price to be paid for inaction."

The vice president recalled the moment, shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when President Barack Obama asked him to lead a task force to explore potential gun proposals for Capitol Hill. He said the president's tone reflected that he was aware of the political risk should Biden decide to accept the appointment.

"That if you take this on, somehow, there will be a severe political price to pay for doing it because that is what's happened in the past," Biden said. "I say it is unacceptable not to take these on. It is just simply unacceptable."

The audience, which included elected officials, law enforcement officials, mental health experts and parents of Newtown victims, rose to their feet in applause.

Biden ticked off his list of proposals, starting off with universal background checks, a limit to magazine capacities, and an assault weapons ban. He also called for tougher gun trafficking laws, more law enforcement officers on the street and more robust federal research on the motives for gun violence.

"In an informed society, we shouldn't be afraid of the facts," he said.

The rest of the agenda included funding for school resource officers and more school counselors or psychologists on campus. Further wading into the mental health side of the equation, Biden pushed for an expansion of services for young people and more training for professions to enter the field.

While acknowledging that there's no "guarantee" these policy changes will prevent another mass shooting, Biden argued "significantly fewer people will fall victim" to gun violence.

Critics, however, say the administration is attempting to strip away Second Amendment rights, a move that could put the country at risk, they say.

But as he has done in the past, Biden emphatically worked to debunk speculation that such measures will ultimately lead to a broader ban on guns at large.

"Not true. They say assault weapons like the AR-15 are needed for self-protection and recreation. They are not," Biden said. "They say it isn't about guns. They are wrong. It is about guns."

This is the vice president's third trip to discuss the proposed gun measures pushed by the White House in the wake of the shooting. It is the first appearance by the president or vice president in the vicinity of Newtown, Connecticut since Obama spoke at the memorial service in December.

Biden also advocated for the proposals earlier this week during a Facebook town hall with Parents Magazine, and made similar pleas in a Google+ Fireside chat last month.

His comments came one day before Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that previously operated as Obama's presidential campaign, launches a major effort with 100 events-letter writing parities, rallies, candle light vigils-in 80 different congressional districts. As many members of Congress are at home for recess, OFA supporters will push their representatives to support Obama's plan to reduce gun violence, with strong emphasis on strengthening the background check system.

OFA will also make its first online ad buy, zeroing in on member of Congress who have not yet publicly committed to support background checks.

At the same time, however, the NRA is highlighting in new ads, as it first did in a web video last week, a January internal Justice Department memo that raises questions about the effectiveness of some of the gun control proposals the administration is pushing.

The document entitled "Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies" examines prior research on whether some of these ideas have worked in the past, such as restricting large capacity magazines, universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and gun buy back programs.

On Thursday, the group told CNN that readers in five key states – Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia – will see an NRA newspaper ad headlined in bold: "Will Obama's gun control proposals work? His own experts say 'No.'"

The Senate has been drafting a flood of legislation in the wake of the Newtown shooting. While an assault weapons ban and magazine limit seems unlikely, the potential for passing a stronger background check system appears to have broader appeal. Universal background checks would expand the current system to include screenings for private transactions, rather than purchases made from licensed dealers only.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday on CNN that there's been a focus in the Senate on universal background check proposals, where he thinks "there's a greater chance to come to a bipartisan agreement."

And Republican Sen. John McCain on Sunday said on NBC there were bipartisan efforts underway for a stronger background check system, affirming the legislation was something "that I think that most of us will be able to support."

– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: Connecticut • Gun control • Gun rights • Joe Biden
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. RINO Bill

    Joe Biden is now a very bad caraciture of himself. The more strident he gets the more voters tune him out. He has reached a stage where is both annoying and ineffective ,,, the sad/funny thing is that he does not realize it!.

    February 21, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Dems...shoot with their lips....

    .......and Obama "I shoot guns too"...the Dems are just giving lip-service...and nothing gets done....

    February 21, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Michael

    I see the NRA is spinning up the PR campaign against seven Democratic senators in red states who are up for re-election in 2014. Whether you agree or disagree with the NRA, they are a sight to behold once they start rolling. Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to avoid the gun control issue, I can't say that for the the rest of the Democratic Party.

    February 21, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Would someone please explain to me why they want to continue to make it easy for criminals, terrorists, and all of those who should not have care free access to guns and ammo?

    And for those who argue that criminals will still be able to get guns on black market, I have this to say. How do you think your so called 'black market' gets their guns? Besides, there isn't really a 'black market' for guns in this country because it is so easy to obtain them without background checks. We don't have anything like the 'black markets' that exists in other countries.

    February 21, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Wilmington

    Is that Joe "Shotgun" Biden?
    I can't say I would care to be he and Mrs. Biden's next door neighbor...I cam see them getting liquored up and busting a few shotgun caps off the balcony on Saturday night.

    February 21, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    "In an informed society, we shouldn't be afraid of the facts," he said.
    -------------------
    Sorry, Mr. Vice-President, belief systems are far more powerful than mere facts.

    February 21, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. rs

    You know, America needs to wake up. The GOP and the NRA are undermining any attempt to change a situation that has seen 2,000 Americans killed by guns since the Newtown Massacre in December. That is a greater number of Americans killed AMERICA than 2 years in Iraq during the war. If this were a disease, or a defective product people would be screaming to solve this problem. The NRA is trying to make this a debate about a mental illness registry, or dangerous child register (while saying we can't register guns!). BS- they just represent the weapons industry- and they want more sales.

    February 21, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. Padraig

    RudyNYC – just because the government bans a particular weapon doesn't mean that it still cannot be purchased. Once again you lack the intelligence to understand how the weapons are purchased outside legal means. However, I understand your lack of intelligence from reading your wordly thoughts the you have litered in other posts.

    February 21, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. GaryS

    He's probably forgetting the the AWB in 86 probably cost the Dems the 2000 election. This is all BS with a completely bogus label.
    FYI assault weapons do not exist. Assault rifles do but the AR 15 is not an Assault Rifle.
    Learn something the usual web prefix assaultweapons DOT info

    February 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. Dennis

    Why would you want to make penalties for a law harsher when you don't enforce the law in the first place? I saw this statistic the other day and thought it was very telling about how poorly our current Federal gun law is enforced, and why we don't need any more.

    In 2010, prosecutors considered just 22 cases of information falsification, according to a 2012 report to the Department of Justice by the Regional Justice Information Service. Forty additional background-check cases ended up before prosecutors for reasons related to unlawful gun possession.

    In all, prosecutors pursued just 44 of those 62 cases. More than 72,600 applications were denied on the basis of a background check.

    February 21, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. Howard's Daddy

    You must be thinking of Dick Cheney, who actually shot one of his pals in the face.

    February 21, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Polls show Joey is correct: the public favors Obama's plans and proposals by several percentage points over the GOP/Teatrolls/NRA. Cry about it, gun nuts....may your tears water the flowers on the graves of all those victimized by the societal negligence you propagate.

    And CNN...are you gonna talk about McCain's condescending, disrespectful, nonanswer, dismissal of one of the parents of the Aurora victims at his Town Hall meeting,...or is Grampa Grumpygrift off limits in your neverending war on reality?

    February 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "And for those who argue that criminals will still be able to get guns on black market,"

    Our current gun laws ARE a legalized black market. What else would you call secretive private sales that nobody ever has to report and that don't require any form of backgroun checking or fitness-to-carry evaluations?

    February 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. Emmanuel Goldstein

    Summary: The VP is telling folks to fall on their sword for this administration.

    February 21, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. kayla

    it's so pathetic that this country of ours is controlled by the nra. how sad

    February 21, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Padraig wrote:

    RudyNYC – just because the government bans a particular weapon doesn't mean that it still cannot be purchased.
    --------------------
    Oh, well in that case. What's the problem with putting a weapons ban in place then? If you can still purchase the weapons, then what's the objection?

    No, your personal insults against me just illustrate the fact that I hit the nail on the head about this mythical black market for weapons that the right wing keeps fear mongering about. And if, as you say, the weapons can still be purchased, then who is selling them? Law abiding citizens that work at gun factories?

    February 21, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "And Republican Sen. John McCain on Sunday said on NBC there were bipartisan efforts underway for a stronger background check system, affirming the legislation was something "that I think that most of us will be able to support." "

    He also responded to a woman whose child was killed in the Aurora shootings, when she got up and asked him a question about this issue, in a calloused, demeaning and condescending manner, telling her that "you need some straight talk"....he then proceeded to summarily dismiss her concerns, failed to answer her question and deflected by telling her that the GOP/Teatrolsl would blcok any attempt to ban assault weapons or high capacity magazines.

    February 21, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "And Republican Sen. John McCain on Sunday said on NBC there were bipartisan efforts underway for a stronger background check system, affirming the legislation was something "that I think that most of us will be able to support." "

    He also responded to a woman whose child was killed in the Aurora shootings, when she got up and asked him a question about this issue, in a calloused, demeaning and condescending manner, telling her that "you need some straight talk"....he then proceeded to summarily dismiss her concerns, failed to answer her question and deflected by telling her that the GOP/Teatrolsl would blcok any attempt to ban assault weapons or high capacity magazines. The AZ town hall crowd that had been yelling at him to deport all illegals then cheered for him right in her face.

    February 21, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Dennis asked:

    Why would you want to make penalties for a law harsher when you don't enforce the law in the first place? I saw this statistic the other day and thought it was very telling about how poorly our current Federal gun law is enforced, and why we don't need any more.
    --------------
    Why you ask? So you like statistics, huh? Check out this statistic. Under the Bush administration, the budget for ATF was reduced to around $500,000, annually. Yes, half a million dollars. That's it. The argument had been that the Dep't of Homeland Security would make ATF redundant. With a budget that small, now you know why there have been so few arrests and prosecutions.

    February 21, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. george

    Three "straw buyers" for one of the Mexican drug cartels were in Federal court in San Antonio today. The Federal prosecutor allowed them to plead guilty for the following sentences, 2 were given probation and the third criminal was allowed to go free on time served. The Federal judge even commented on how liberal he felt the deal was to the criminals. This is how the Obama regime enforces current gun laws and now they want even more. laws What a joke.

    February 21, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. raul

    The NRA needs to be banned. Why can private citizens own guns when we have such efficient security enabled by the Patriot Act and NDAA. If all guns were confiscated and the government was the only one allowed guns no massacres such as Newtown would ever occur again.

    February 21, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. Getoverit

    @Sniffit

    Our current gun laws ARE a legalized black market. What else would you call secretive private sales that nobody ever has to report and that don't require any form of backgroun checking or fitness-to-carry evaluations?
    -------------------------------
    And new gun laws will stop these types of transactions how....?

    February 21, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "This is how the Obama regime enforces current gun laws and now they want even more. laws What a joke."

    Report from February 9, 2012:

    "Edwards and Gonzalez, who were sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Del Rio, are two of 22 defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges in connection with this investigation. The other defendants include [long lisst of names].

    To date, nine of the defendants have been sentenced to federal prison terms–14 years (Davis), 10 years (Castillo), 87 months (Edwards), 72 months (Cardenas), 57 months (Linda Gonzalez), 42 months (Ricky Gonzales), 37 months (Hance), 21 months (Ortega), and 12 months (Veliz). Marino Castro is scheduled to be sentenced at 11:00am on May 21, 2012, in Del Rio before United States District Judge Alia Moses. Antonia Lopez died of cancer prior to sentencing. Sentencings for the remaining defendants are scheduled throughout February, March and April.“"

    STOP LYING

    February 21, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  24. PatheticCNN

    Once my Guru said that there are more Liberal Gun Owners in our Country than Conservative Gun Owners. He reminded me that Democrat with a Gun always Kills while Republican with a Gun always Protects.

    February 21, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Name lynn

    Joe Biden an the NRA cant do nothing about the guns nor guns laws, people getting guns every day an no one cant stop them. Obama cant either no one wants to pray, people saying they dont believe in god, wheres god at when all this killing an shooting. Well God sitting high looking low, an heres everything the people saying.

    February 21, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
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