Biden urges faith leaders to pressure lawmakers on background checks
May 7th, 2013
07:57 AM ET
11 months ago

Biden urges faith leaders to pressure lawmakers on background checks

(CNN) - During a more than two-hour meeting at the White House on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden asked leaders from across the faith community to keep up pressure on lawmakers to support compromise background check legislation even as Congress begins to shift its focus to immigration reform, according to several attendees who spoke to CNN.

Biden urged the roughly 20 faith leaders in attendance not to be discouraged by recent legislative failures, and instead assured them that the White House had not given up.

"Even though he suffered a defeat, he didn't sound defeated," said pastor Michael McBride of the PICO National Network. "And we need that kind of hope from the bully pulpit of the White House."

In the run-up to last month's Senate vote, religious organizations from across the denominational spectrum pressured members of Congress to vote for background check legislation.

Without mentioning the names of any lawmakers, Biden acknowledged the effectiveness of such lobbying efforts and asked those in attendance to continue to target those whose opinions can be swayed.

"We worked on thanking some of the people for whom we knew this was a hard vote and to encourage local churches and synagogues to speak out in the states and districts of those senators and representatives who seem to be either undecided or willing to revisit this issue with an open mind," said Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Specifically, the attendees discussed how some senators who voted for the compromise legislation have seen their approval ratings rise, while some who voted against it have seen a backlash from their constituents.

"There was a sense among some lawmakers that they've gotten a very strong sense of disapprobation that they didn't expect," said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

And while Biden wouldn't share specifics, "it's clear they're working on the details of what they're going to do" next, Saperstein said.

The meeting represented a broad cross-section of denominational and ideological views, and several present at the meeting said that everyone was given ample time to air their concerns.

According to one person at the meeting, the vice president even engaged in a back-and-forth with prominent leaders of the evangelical Christian community in an effort to assuage concerns about the "intent and spirit" of any gun legislation.

According to the accounts of several attendees, Biden personally assured everyone present that the legislation under consideration wasn't intended to confiscate guns or create a national gun registry.

Evangelicals in attendance included Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Barrett Duke, vice president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Richard Cizik, founder of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

"It was a really diverse group, and the vast majority of the people who supported Manchin-Toomey came out absolutely energized, and I think others came out saying, 'I'm going to give this a close look,' " said Vincent DeMarco of Faiths United Against Gun Violence.

He was referring to the failed background check legislation proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican. The compromise legislation would have expanded background checks to include private sales at gun shows and all Internet sales, while continuing to exempt most sales between family members and friends.

CNN White House Producer Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.


Filed under: Faith • Joe Biden
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    This is common sense legislation. When Sen. Ayotte told the child of the mother who was shot in Newtown that she voted against the bill because she was skeptical about it leading to a national registry, that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. She knows good and darn well that a national registry is outlawed in the bill. Shame on her and those who voted against expanded background checks. The repercussions will come next November.

    May 7, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  2. Jeff

    Wow, Obama and Biden call on the Church when they need a strong arm. Thanks FUNNY!!!!! They want the church to pay for women to have abortions, and also to help them with gun confiscation!!!!! WOW

    May 7, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  3. moderndayosiris

    Second time is the charm? Face it, the laws are going to stay the way they are.

    May 7, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  4. NClaw441

    I look forward to hearing from the "Separation of Church and State" crowd on this...

    May 7, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  5. John Illlinois

    Biden, Obama and their fellow liberals can go pound sand! No 2nd Amendment rights infringement!

    May 7, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  6. PaulG

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, calling gun control 'common sense' or 'reasonable' exposes the lie that it is anything but. Politicians using these terms are sleazy salesmen selling snake oil the American public does not want.

    May 7, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  7. HenryMiller

    If one or more of these "faith leaders" would step to offer their own organisations to fairly and honestly do the background checks, completely independently of government, such things might be acceptable..Every time anyone in government proposes a "background check" bill, it's stuffed full of back-door things like letting doctors unilaterally deny people guns—and just a couple of months ago, my kids' own paediatrician called me to try to get me to "get rid of" my guns; apparently he asks every kid he treats if there are guns in the house, making his position on the issue quite clear.

    And, of course, there's no way we can trust government not to create an inferential database of gun owners just by keeping track of background check requests.

    May 7, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  8. Jean

    Wow CNN I thought you would at least try to show some balanced approach but you are touting the gun control all over the place, even withfringe stories such as thi,s and I cannot find a peep on the front page or the political ticker about Benghazi. If this had been reversed and a republican president and sec'y of state was in the line of fire over a situation like Benghazi I wouldlbe willing to borrow, and then bet, $1 million it would make your front headline every day for a week, at least. Very disengenuous on CNNs part, very disheartening that the media is still playing such games to try and protect Obama and Clinton.

    May 7, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  9. wireknob

    Are the faith leaders also going to be asked to pressure politicians on the abortion issue? Or is it only OK to ask religious leaders to become politically active when the cause is one you support?

    May 7, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |