Biden calls on mayors to respond to 'carnage'
January 17th, 2013
04:25 PM ET
10 years ago

Biden calls on mayors to respond to 'carnage'

Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden urged 273 mayors to rally behind the Obama administration's new push for tough control laws on Thursday, saying government at all levels has an "urgent and immediate" call to trample the "epidemic of gun violence."

"I know we don't have absolute unanimity in this ballroom, nor do we in any ballroom," he told the audience at the annual Conference of Mayors in Washington. "We all know...we have to do something, we have to act. I hope we agree there's a need to respond to the carnage on our streets and in our schools."

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

The president, with Biden alongside, laid out his agenda Wednesday and called on Congress to pass legislation that includes the renewal of the assault weapons ban, a ten-round limit for ammunition magazines, better access to mental health care, and criminal background checks on every gun sale.

President Obama also signed 23 "executive actions" that don't require Congressional approval but stress a need to use federal resources to in part educate the public on gun safety and improve mental health care access.

The vice president's comments Thursday foreshadowed what will likely be a large campaign to promote the president's gun plans to various segments of society, especially as Capitol Hill embarks on what's expected to be a tense, emotional debate.

"This time will not be like times that have come before," he said. "We're going to take this fight to the halls of Congress. We're going to go beyond that. We're going to go around the country to the American people."

READ MORE: Obama campaign arm begins gun control push

With a long history in the Senate of writing crime and gun laws, Biden went into detail in front of the mayors about the recent process to come up with the proposals. Obama appointed the vice president to the task about a month ago, days after the Newtown elementary school massacre.

His approval rating has increased five points since then, according to a CNN/Time/ORC International poll released Wednesday. Besides leading the task force on curbing gun violence, Biden also had a high profile role, along with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in striking a deal that temporarily averted the country going over the fiscal cliff.

"That tragedy in all my years in public life I think has affected the public psyche in a way that I have never seen before," Biden said, referring to the 20 children killed in the shooting. "The image of first graders not only shot but riddled with bullets."

Over the last month, Biden said his task force spoke with 229 groups or "stakeholders" from both sides of the highly-contentious gun control debate, as well as victims of shootings, entertainment executives, and local lawmakers.

"No group was more consequential or instrumental in shaping of the document we put together for the president than all of you in this room," he told the mayors.

READ MORE: The breakdown of Obama's gun violence proposals

In addition to discussions, Biden said his team spent "literally hundreds of hours" analyzing research by experts at the Justice Department and Homeland Security. "After reviewing just about every idea that had been written up only to gather dust on the shelf of some agency, a set of principles emerged that there was not universal agreement on but overwhelming consensus on."

Among the legislation, Obama is calling for a strengthening of the background check system. His policies would provide guidance on how to make private sellers run background checks on purchasers, require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal system and improve incentives for states to share information with the system.

Biden urged the mayors "to push, push your legislators, push the governors to make these records available."

Appealing to his audience, Biden said the group knew firsthand the impact that guns-which have killed more than 900 people since the Newtown shooting-have on both city streets and in rural areas.

"How many of you mayors have had to attend a funeral of a police officer or an innocent child in a drive by shooting or a shop owner in your city? Many of you, many of you had to attend too many funerals," he said.

But the problem, Biden argued, isn't just about guns or the ability to obtain them. A larger, more pervasive dilemma exists within society that requires measures beyond simply restricting access to firearms.

"This isn't just about guns," Biden said. "It's about the coursing of our culture. Yes, that's what I said. The coursing of our culture. Whether it's with video games, or with movies, or with culture. It's about the ability to access mental health services, and the safety of our schools. It's a very complex problem that requires a complex solution."

Part of that solution is better data, he argued, pointing to a provision in Obama's gun violence proposal that reinstates the ability of the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research on gun deaths in America. The health agency was disallowed from conducting such studies in 1996, when Congressional leaders, backed by the National Rifle Association, stymied the CDC's ongoing investigations.

On Wednesday Obama called on Congress to provide $10 million to the CDC for further research on gun violence, including investigations into violent video games and movies and their relationship to gun violence.

Biden lamented the lack of information from such studies Thursday, saying his push for more data on the topic had made him unpopular among those products' manufacturers.

"That's not an indictment of the industry, it's a recognition we have not got modern studies on these things," he said.

He also stressed the need for "mental health parity" within the health care system that would ensure patients with psychological afflictions are treated with the same urgency and seriousness as people with physical disorders. That shift is essential in preventing further violence, Biden said.

He pointed to parts of Obama's plan that aim to make mental health screening more widespread in schools, with the goal of reaching 750,000 young people who need help from mental health professionals.

Also key is ensuring patients who receive Medicaid funding for mental health care aren't aged out when they turn 19. That problem, he said, comes when patients still need care but aren't able to pay for it.

But those fixes, he said, were just the beginning to answering the mental health aspect of America's gun violence problem.

"We've got to deal with this," he said. "The question we asked was 'how." How to do that. And that's going to take more time."

Filed under: Congress • Gun rights • Joe Biden • President Obama
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Johnny Chagdes

    Hi Joe –

    I hate to say this, but, I do not think those measures will reduce crimes committed by guns.

    I am curious though ... in all of your discussions with the advocacy groups, did anyone mention that maybe we ought to make all acts of crime that use a gun a felony with a minimum of 10 years in jail. If you do it again ... 30 years. The third strike ... either the death penalty of a life in jail?

    The only way to stop these atrocities is to severely punish those that commit these crimes and to fear of jail into the rest of the people who are even considering it.

    January 17, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Larry L

    The dialogue coming from Vice President Biden's report on gun violence seems logical and pragmatic. It's good to politicians willing to ignore the N.R.A. Report Card – and give more concern for the "Good American Report Card".

    January 17, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. rs

    1,013 Americans dead because of guns since the Newtown Massacre.

    Hello, Republicans? Anybody home? Hello...Hello....

    January 17, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    And Joe is still of the opinion that violent movies and video games are not a factor? Oh yeah, the entertainment crowd are big contributors to the liberal progressive candidates.

    January 17, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  5. Gonzoinhouston

    Bad news; there is no way a major gun-control bill can get through the current House.
    Good news; the GOP will dig themselves ever deeper into their hole over this.

    January 17, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. actlikeithurts

    Any firearms policy changes needs to start with a full and thorough disclosure on Obama and Holder's knowledge of Fast and Furious. When they're able to do this, I'll know they're serious about combatting gun violence.

    January 17, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "And Joe is still of the opinion that violent movies and video games are not a factor? Oh yeah, the entertainment crowd are big contributors to the liberal progressive candidates."

    Did you simply refuse to read the whole article or did you just ignore the parts that you didn't like hearing? Here, let me help:

    "On Wednesday Obama called on Congress to provide $10 million to the CDC for further research on gun violence, including investigations into violent video games and movies and their relationship to gun violence.

    Biden lamented the lack of information from such studies Thursday, saying his push for more data on the topic had made him unpopular among those products' manufacturers.

    "That's not an indictment of the industry, it's a recognition we have not got modern studies on these things," he said."

    Biden quite clearly wants violent entertainment studied along with studies of the rest of it and your pot-shot was baseless.

    January 17, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. Wire Palladin, S. F

    Did you right wingnuts see that the NRA released their own violent video game to appease the mentally challenged who need more than 7 shots to hit the broadside of a barn?

    January 17, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F

    The NRA knows that they also need missile launchers for the next possum hunt.

    January 17, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. piodalcin

    iI really hope all this work will lead to a better America, gun free, (at least those automatic, assault and lethal )

    January 17, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. actlikeithurts

    Any discussion on gun control needs to start with Obama and Holder coming clean on their knowledge of Fast and Furious. We've got an AG who was held in contempt of Congress for stonewalling an investigation into how assault rifles were allowed to "walk" into Mexico and which resulted in the deaths of 2 police officers and countless Mexican citizens, and a president who invoked executive privilege to shield him. When they're ready to address this and come clean, I will know they're serious.

    January 17, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. Larry L

    Did our founders create the 2nd to allow individual citizens military hardware so when they independently decide our government has become "oppressive", they might take up arms and resist? If the right-wing groups seriously believe this to be true then Tim McVeigh, Fort Hood shooter MAJ Malik Hasan, and Ted Kaczynski were all expressing their "right to bear arms" as guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. They took up arms against what they believed to be an "oppressive" government. Does that make them Patriots? Maybe we need to give this more thought....

    January 17, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. 40below

    I don't think the proposals will do anything. Use health agencies to gather information on gun ownership? List building does not promote trust. Bans have proven not to work. Let's try this again even though it did not work in the past. Let's bash and demonize the NRA even though they are the only ones in the national argument that offers anything that does not blame an inanimate object. Set a loaded gun on a table and watch it. It will not move or harm anyone, I don't care how long you watch it. It becomes dangerous in the hands of a criminal or someone hell bent on causing harm. Find some common sense and use it.

    January 17, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. otlset

    "Appealing to his audience, Biden said the group knew firsthand the impact that guns - which have killed more than 900 people since the Newtown shooting - have on both city streets and rural areas."

    Yep, guns have been increasingly violent in recent years all right. But the more we restrict them the more they'll find ways around the restrictions to continue their cold-metaled carnage (when their owners aren't looking).

    Biden is such an idiot. One idiotic gaffe after another - and now we're to take him seriously?

    January 17, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. 40below

    Larry L – The fact that they did what they did should make everyone stop and think for a minute. I don't support what they did but would like to know what would drive someone to do these horrific acts.

    January 17, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. otlset

    Yep, guns are becoming more violent day by day. They should be arrested and brought to trial, and then put in prison for their criminal shootings!

    January 17, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  17. Kianasmum

    Violent video games and movies are not a major factor – parental supervision and mental health are some.

    And in case you didn't know, in Canada, the gun related death rate in 2011 was 2.13 per 100,000 people. In the USA, it was 10.3. In Canada, we can get legal guns too but we have to take 2-3 safety courses before one can even apply for a licence. What's wrong with that? I rather that then move to the US where I have an 83% chance of getting shot.

    January 17, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. Borderless

    Walk into any large crowd, such as a sporting event or a mall or a concert, and ask yourself if you would rather all of those people be armed or none of them. I know too many law abiding people that could legally own a gun but are so completely lacking in common sense that and sound judgement that I would not want to be anywhere near them if they carried a gun.

    January 17, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  19. mb

    T I'm a proud gun owner, and I own several guns, which no.e of them are assault rifles, and I do my fair share of hunting. I feel to protect the honest gun owner that there should be a universal background check is a common sense idea. I'm mixed on the asualt rifle ban. I don't know why the average person needs one? They were designed for killing people, not target practice or hunting. But I don't know how I feel about banning them from people. At the same time I'm a parent, so I keep my guns in a gun safe for the safety of my children and in the event someone were to break into my house they would have a hard tome getting to them. So if every gun owner used a little common sense, and kept their guns locked up for the safety of their children or grand children how many child deaths from guns be prevented a year? How many guns could we keep out of the hands of criminals a year? And in the case of Newtown, and not to put the blame on his mother because the shooter was clearly to blame, but how many guns could we keep out of the hands of someone with mental problems? I know some people like to sleep with a gun in their bedroom in case someone breaks in. That's fine, do it, just put it in a secure place when you wake up in the morning, or take it with you when you leave the house. People need to wake up and smell the roses or the honest gun owner is going to be under attack until the 2nd ammendement is repealed.

    January 17, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  20. keebler

    If the government can't trust me to have a gun then I can't trust them with guns either. A monopoly of force is not acceptable.

    January 17, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. TheTruth

    A very recent study by the University of Pennsylvania shows that gun control measures, specifically those proposed by Biden, have no effect on crime. The FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that crime does, in fact, rise significantly.

    January 17, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  22. Pragmatic Man


    Your using the wrong example, you have to think bigger! How about I lay down a semi-automatic rifle with laser scope, sound suppressor, 30 magazine clip, plus some other cool things that only SWAT and the military use but the 2nd amendment totally says I can have! Now, were talking an inanimate object that unlike a "gun" can slaughter wholesale. Speaking of which, Walmart has a sale right now............

    January 17, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  23. Mike Morgan

    Biden. Another Washington Obama puppet

    January 17, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  24. Capt_Bogart

    I missed it somewhere … where does it say “death sentence” for anyone shooting someone NOT in self-defense, and the shooter cannot claim insanity? I cannot locate this in any of these new gun law bills, where the criminal bears the brunt, only the law bidding people and the 2nd amendment.

    January 17, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. Canuck

    @Ancient Texan
    " And Joe is still of the opinion that violent movies and video games are not a factor?"

    Folk in Britain, Canada and Australia watch the same violent movies and play the same video games without anything like the gun problems the States has. Going out on a limb it might have something to do with the easy availability of guns in your country, something your President is at least trying to address.

    January 17, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |