Biden says consensus emerging on gun safety
WASHINGTON • Pledging swift action to curb gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden said he would deliver new policy proposals to President Barack Obama by Tuesday.
Biden said that while he had not finalized his recommendations, a consensus was emerging over banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as tightening background checks.
Some of those measures are likely to face opposition from some pro-gun groups, most notably the powerful National Rifle Association. A representative from the NRA was scheduled to meet with Biden Thursday afternoon.
Obama, spurred by the horrific shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn., appointed Biden to lead a task force on preventing gun violence. He set a late January deadline for the group's recommendations, which he pledged to act on swiftly.
The vice president said Thursday that while no recommendations would eliminate all future mass shootings, "there has got to be some common ground, to not solve every problem but diminish the probability."
The NRA, the nation's largest gun-rights group, has blocked gun-control efforts in the past and is opposing any new ones. In the wake of the Newtown shooting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre rejected efforts to tighten gun laws and instead recommended putting armed guards in all schools as a way to stop another school shooting.
LaPierre will not be attending the White House meeting. Instead, the NRA is sending its top lobbyist, James Baker, who has worked with Biden previously on gun issues.
White House officials recognize it is unlikely the NRA will ever fully support measures Obama is pushing, including an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines. But the administration may need to soften the NRA's opposition if it hopes to rally support from pro-gun lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Biden was also meeting Thursday with sportsmen and wildlife organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Outdoor Industry Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Firearms Import/Export Roundtable.
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest firearms seller, will meet separately with Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday along with other retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Biden has also said the administration is weighing executive action in addition to recommending legislation by Congress. Those steps could include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that about 40 percent of gun sales are made without background checks, often at gun shows and over the Internet.
Representatives from the Brady Campaign joined other victims' groups and gun safety organizations for meetings with Biden on Wednesday. The vice president said the steps the administration is considering could "take thousands of people out of harm's way" and improve the safety of millions more.
"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing," Biden said. "It's critically important we act."
The Newtown shootings pushed gun control to the top of Obama's domestic agenda for the first time during his presidency. He was largely silent on the hot-button political issue after the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 12 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the Colorado movie theater killing of a dozen people and wounding of many more last July.
The president hopes to announce his administration's next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term and has pledged to push for new measures in his State of the Union address.