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Biden pushes gun background-check plan

January 25, 2013|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Vice President Biden gestures during a round table discussion on gun violence at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Vice President Biden gestures during a round table discussion on gun violence… (Steve Helber / Associated…)

RICHMOND, Va. -- Vice President Joe Biden took the White House’s efforts to enact sweeping new gun proposals to the heart of Virginia on Friday, vowing to continue traveling the country to press the administration’s case for immediate action in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“We cannot remain silent as a country,” Biden said after a round table discussion with officials from Virginia Tech University that centered on improvements in the background check system after a deadly shooting massacre there, as well as addressing the role of mental health in gun violence.

The vice president made a specific push for the president’s call for universal background checks, the element of the gun-control package that officials feel has the most chance of passage. The background-check plan “in no way impacts upon someone’s ability under the Constitution to own a gun,” he said.

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Left unmentioned was another one of four legislative initiatives that were produced by a task force led by Biden, to renew and strengthen the ban on assault weapons.

The vice president said the nation was shaken by the Sandy Hook school shooting, which he said was “a window into the vulnerability people feel about their safety and the safety of their children.” But he also noted that since that December shooting, an additional 1,200 Americans have been killed at the hands of a gun.

“We have an obligation to act, not wait,” Biden said.

“We’re going to be doing a lot more of this. And with the help of our colleagues in the House and Senate, we’re going to get something done that is going to improve the prospects of reducing gun violence,” he added.

The likelihood that lawmakers will adopt the full slate of recommendations from the White House is in doubt, particularly in a Republican-controlled House. But the administration is eager to keep up a campaign of public pressure to move at least some of the initiatives; Friday’s event was in the home market of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

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Biden was joined by newly elected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who served as governor during the Virginia Tech shooting, and previously as mayor of Richmond. Kaine noted how he had worked with a Republican legislature after the Virginia Tech shooting, as well as a Republican attorney general – the state’s current governor, Bob McDonnell.

“There are things you can do that work. … You can do them by working together,” Kaine said, calling improving the background-check system a common sense idea with broad appeal.

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