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Biden delivers preview of White House pitch on gun policies

January 17, 2013|By Morgan Little
  • Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech on gun control at the United States Conference of Mayors gathering in Washington.
Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech on gun control at the United States… (Jim Lo Scalzo / European…)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden laid out the White House’s plan to prevent future gun violence before the U.S. Conference of Mayors here Thursday, saying the proposal “isn’t just about guns.”

Speaking to a gathering of the nation’s mayors, Biden acknowledged that they are faced with a plethora of problems, but he labeled gun violence as the most immediate and urgent.

“Everyone acknowledges we have to do something, we have to act,” Biden said, adding that the Newtown, Conn., school shooting has affected the public psyche “in a way I’ve never seen before.”

Biden thanked a number of mayors for their input during the monthlong deliberations that brought in 229 groups to help form the administration’s gun proposals. 

The vice president said he and Obama supported the 2nd Amendment but believe that certain individuals should be “disqualified” from gun ownership and the country needs to make “common-sense judgments” about how to keep military-style weapons off the streets.

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Biden, who spoke extensively about high-capacity ammunition magazines that “leave victims with no chance,” stopped short of making a resounding call for an assault weapons ban.

“The president believes that there should be a new and stronger assault weapons ban,” Biden said, but he admitted that the gun industry would eventually find a way around legislative standards.

But he did call for focus on the nation’s background check system, which is plagued with inadequacies, as The Times noted in a recent article.

“Today there are 17 states that have made fewer than 10 mental health records available on the mental health background system,” Biden said, calling not only for increased funding but for universal background checks to cover all firearm sales.

Taking a jab at the National Rifle Assn.’s proposal that armed guards be placed in every school, Biden trumpeted Obama’s proposal to allow schools to decide on an individual basis whether they want to use federal funds for armed guards or other preventative measures, such as counseling.

“We don’t want rent-a-cops armed in schools,” Biden said, to the applause of a number of mayors.

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Also in his pitch, Biden praised adjustments to the nation’s mental health services system included in the Affordable Care Act, with the caveat that there is still much more to be done, and he called for federal agencies to be given more flexibility in examining the underlying factors behind gun violence.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have sufficient data,” he said. “And as an informed society, we need data.”

Biden’s speech, which ran beyond the “10 or 12 minutes” he promised at the onset, provided a preview of the administration’s expected push for its gun proposals to the American public.

“I’ve been in the fight a long time. I have no illusions about the fight ahead of us,” Biden said, adding that he was confident that with public support founded on “common-sense” consensus, “the political obstacles that will be put up in front of us are not impenetrable.”

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