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Biden’s gun control proposals will spark a gunfight on Capitol Hill

By John Whitesides | Reuters
January 12, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden flanked by video game execs and others at meeting.(Reuters)

Vice President Joe Biden flanked by video game execs and others at meeting.
(Reuters)

Vice President Joe Biden wrapped up a series of White House meetings on Friday and prepared recommendations to curb gun violence that will call for expanded background checks on gun buyers and set up a heated, likely uphill battle in Congress to revive a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Biden, who heads a task force due to give President Barack Obama recommendations next week, met with representatives of the video game industry, whose products often enable players to carry out shootings in graphically violent games.

The vice president has said he will recommend “universal” background checks for all gun buyers – endorsed as a top priority on Friday by the prominent gun-control group the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence – and new limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines.

Obama formed the Biden task force following last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in which a gunman shot dead 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.

The White House reiterated on Friday that it also will try to revive the U.S. ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 after being in effect for a decade. The Obama administration rejected suggestions it was trying to lower expectations for getting a broad ban on assault weapons approved by Congress.

“The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

Biden’s recommendations are likely to put the White House on a collision course with the influential National Rifle Association gun rights lobbying group and spark the biggest gun-control fight in Congress in nearly a decade. The NRA criticized the White House effort after meeting with Biden on Thursday.

Any gun control proposals face a difficult fight in Congress, both in the Republican-led House of Representatives and in the Democratic-led Senate, where many Democrats represent conservative states with broad public support for gun rights.

Gun control advocates have renewed hope that a package of gun restrictions could clear Congress, while acknowledging the assault weapons ban likely will face the toughest path.

“Among the things that are under consideration, banning assault weapons is probably the hardest lift for Congress. Bans are always the toughest fight,” said Jim Kessler, senior vice president of policy at the centrist think tank Third Way.

NRA President David Keene predicted that any proposal to ban assault weapons would not survive in Congress. He said his group has a “profound disagreement” with Obama on the right approach to preventing incidents such as the one in Newtown. The NRA has proposed putting armed security guards in U.S. schools.

‘NO BAN ON ASSAULT WEAPONS

“I do not think that there’s going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons in Congress,” Keene said on NBC’s “Today” show, adding that many of Biden’s likely recommendations would be “basically feel-good proposals.”

Keene said the political muscle and financial clout of the NRA, which says it has 4 million members and spends heavily on political races, was not the stumbling block for the effort to restrict guns.

“It’s not the power of the NRA,” Keene said. “It is the strength of belief among millions of Americans in their right under the Constitution to privately own firearms.”

A Senate Democratic aide said it is too early to predict the prospects for an assault weapons ban. Obama promised to put gun control at the top of his agenda for his second term, but it will compete with a crush of other legislative priorities and a looming budget confrontation with Republicans.

Kessler, a former official for the gun-control advocacy group Americans for Gun Safety, said passage of a law expanding background checks would be a significant achievement on its own.

“There are going to be 11,000 funerals this year for people murdered by a gun, and almost none of them will be murdered by an assault weapon. They are going to die from a handgun,” he said.

“If we can do something that requires background checks for all sales, including those at gun shows, that’s a huge accomplishment. We shouldn’t look at that as a policy-making around the edges. It will do more to reduce crime and protect people than an assault weapons ban,” he said.

NO ‘SILVER BULLET’

On Friday, Biden said there was no “silver bullet” for the complex problem of gun violence. One day after meeting with the movie industry, Biden met with representatives of the video game business, whose violent games played by millions of teenagers and adults have faced new criticism since the Newtown shootings.

He said he is looking at potential measures to curb violence online and in popular entertainment, and told the group he also is eyeing technology that would prevent people from firing guns that they had not bought themselves.

The Brady Campaign, in its recommendations to Biden’s task force, listed the effort to close loopholes in the background check system for gun buyers as its top priority. Various loopholes allow two of every five gun sales to take place without checks, the group said.

Also included were proposals to improve the ability to identify dangerous people who represent the most risk, especially among the mentally ill, and give law enforcement better tools to crack down on gun trafficking.

Restricting the availability of military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines also was included, but as the last of the priorities listed.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said the assault weapons ban was important but that “it’s also where the conversation is naturally focusing, and I think we feel there should be a broader conversation that should very importantly include background checks.”

Several states are considering laws designed to curb gun violence after the Connecticut massacre.

In Massachusetts, violent video games have been removed from state highway service plazas out of concern they would offend people, particularly from neighboring Connecticut.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo has introduced a bill that would require schools to install panic buttons that would connect to local police stations. They could be manually activated in case of a life-threatening situation or emergency.

The Butler Area School District near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania decided before the Newtown shootings to deploy armed security guards in schools and has accelerated the effort. The district got permission from a judge to allow retired police officers who monitor its 14 schools to carry firearms.

“We simply did what we though was best for our school district,” Superintendent Mike Strutt said.

___

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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9 Responses to Biden’s gun control proposals will spark a gunfight on Capitol Hill

  1. woody188

    January 13, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Gun authoritarians seem to forget the incident that started our revolution against Britain was the attempted arrest of Samuel Adams and John Hancock at Lexington and the seizing of weapons at Concord.

    I’ve just one thing to say, “molṑn labé!”

  2. Bill Cravener

    January 13, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I’ve just one thing to say, “molṑn labé!”

    I got me a laugh out of that one. Why is it with gun nuts when means to perhaps keep guns out of the hands of felons and crazies by passing new gun laws they start spouting tough guy bullshit? The government taking away ones manhood really frightens the gun lover. I’ve been a game hunter for 50 years and I’m all for stricter gun laws in this country. Something needs to be done to stop the slaughter and I’m for whatever it takes!

    • Griff

      January 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

      The problem with tougher gun laws is that they do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of those determined to possess them or commit crimes with them. Law-abiding citizens are the vast majority of gun owners, and purchase them through legal channels.

      There are federal as well as state laws against murder. Yet people still murder. It seems having laws – very strict ones with very heavy penalties – does not seem to stop people from murdering one another, using all kinds of ingenious ways to do it.

      There are laws forbidding speeding, assault, rape, fraud, etc…The list is endless. Yet people still commit those crimes.

      No, more laws is not the answer. Would you rather have this kid tossing bombs in classrooms?

      • Bill Cravener

        January 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

        40 percent of firearms are acquired without background checks around the country thru gun shows and private owners. I’m for any reasonable gun and mental health laws the US can get enacted. Any country that permits 300 million guns to be owned by but a third of its citizens is a problem that needs fixing. What the facts show is we are right up there with Africa, Columbia, Thailand, Guatemala, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, and Mexico when it comes to deaths by guns. That makes us what, number eight? Near 32,000 deaths in just the year 2011. Yes sir, those are numbers to be proud of. America and our love for guns, it does nothing more then make us pathetic!

        • Griff

          January 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          Three words…Fast and Furious.

          Comparing us to these third world countries is meaningless. They are entirely different political systems and societies, although no less corrupt than our own. Besides, who supplies all these weapons to them?

          History has shown (see – prohibition, the War on Drugs, etc…) that simply making something illegal merely enables a robust and often more violent black market to emerge and makes it more difficult for the average lawful citizen to exercise his or her rights.

          The very definition of a criminal is one that does not abide by the law, ergo new laws would be ineffectual in stopping those that mean to break them.

          But it sure does make the politicians feel useful.

          And by the way, the gun show loophole has been closed by many states, including the one that I reside in. That’s the way our government is supposed to work. So if a state chooses to leave that loophole open, it is not illegal, is it?

          How many deaths each year by stabbing? How many deaths each year by car accident? Drug overdose? Prescription drugs? Cancer?

          Why don’t we outlaw the things that cause cancer? Why don’t we outlaw prescription drugs?

          http://www.npr.org/2011/09/27/140849083/prescription-drug-deaths-major-killer-in-the-u-s

          And then one should consider how many of these gun deaths can be attributed to gang and drug violence? I would hazard a guess that it’s quite a good proportion.

          This issue is not black and white. Raw statistics can be made to fit any particular agenda. Political and media hype only obfuscates reality and induces the masses to clamor for any and every fix that comes down the pike, often with negative effects.

          • Bill Cravener

            January 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

            In 10 states (and growing) in this country you are more likely to be killed by a gun than in a car accident. This is astonishing when you consider that 90 percent of households have cars and millions of hours are spent in a vehicle everyday while but a third of the population owns the near 300 million guns in this country where over 30 people a day are murdered and mass murder has become commonplace. Cars can be equally lethal objects, there’s no argument about that, but the reason why cars are safer is because they (as guns should be) are regulated and auto safety is demanded by we Americans, but not when it comes to gun ownership. This country’s gun lovers just can not admit that we have a problem when even felons can buy guns.

            Nancy Lanzas owned a half dozen guns that she was heard to say was for her own protection and pleasure. Didn’t do her much good now did they? Nope, but it sure made it easy for her whacko son to get hold of them to slaughter 20 children, 6 adults and even herself. The irony of her love for guns was made very clear by her sick minded son.

            This country’s Founding Fathers would have been horrified at what we have done with their Second Amendment.

    • woody188

      January 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      Try to stand between and my natural God given rights so we can find out if it’s just “tough guy bs.” And it would be really great if you could participate without the name calling as per the rules of the site Mr. Bill.

      • Bill Cravener

        January 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

        Try to stand between and my natural God given rights so we can find out if it’s just “tough guy bs.”

        That woody is a perfect example of a gun nut threat. You have just made my point so clearly. And thanks for yet another laugh! :)

  3. Sandy Price

    January 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I am delighted that this issue has been driven by the kind of action that needed a control against assault weapons that is long over due.

    We have had a series of children killed that could have been stopped years ago. Since 2000 when the GOP had shown their lack of balls in every area of political involvement. The GOP is nothing but a pile of old ladies sitting in rocking chairs smoking smelly old cigars. There isn’t a firm spine anywhere in the party. In 2000, the party lost leadership. It caved into the Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell group of Evangelical men who lived in fear of women to such a point that they had to disclaim the women from having any power in the party itself. The whole concept of choice when a woman misses her period. It is as if Satan has reached out and crowned a woman as one of his angels.

    My first opera was Faust where he got his girlfriend pregnant and her only action would be to kill herself. My grandmother told me that Christian girls don’t get raped. The only action from my rape would have been to kill myself. Back in the 1950s, that was our only choice.

    I did nothing to bring on the lust of my step father as I hated the man. I did manage to out run him to my grandmother’s home. I had to run like hell because it was past curfew and I ran from the Santa Monica Police in my mind.

    Had I had a gun, I wouldn’t have wasted a bullet on this drunk. He was drunk and I was not. I never again entered the same room where he was and that solved the problem. Someone put a bullet in his back years later and that was the end of him.

    But it does not solve the problem of our balless Republican Party. Where are all those brave fearless Republicans who used to write such beautiful prose here at CHB? Did anyone stand up for that young girl who was called a whore by Rush? That takes a srong spine to do that. The only posters with spine managed to run like scalded dogs. Standing up for women makes men look weak.

    Maybe it is the fault of women who allow their sons to grow up weak and ignorant.