Forget about 'political survival' in gun debate, Biden says
February 21st, 2013
03:18 PM ET
10 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.

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"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. 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....?"


    You want to be the first one to test what happens when you conduct a private sale like that if there's a universal registry and background check system and the idiot you sold it to runs out and commits a crime with the gun you secretly sold him? Hmmm? Be my guest. You'll have the honor of being the first who thought he could get away with it but didn't.

    BTW, nobody expects a 100% stoppage. The point is to create sufficient deterrents and enforcement tools to significantly reduce the ease with which criminals or unfit individuals can get their hands on these tools and thereby reduce the rate at which such crimes take place. You're just inventing a straw man to argue against when you pretend that everyone is claiming it will stop it completely.

    February 21, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Arnie Tibus

    But Mr. Vice President, leftists/liberals and most Democrats don't care to be well-informed, don't really care about facts, and they sure are concerned about political livelihood That is the truth.

    February 21, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
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