News Column

Biden on Gun Laws: 'We Better Get This Done'

Feb. 21, 2013

Johanna Somers

Vice President Biden. (File photo)
Vice President Biden. (File photo)

Vice President Joe Biden told those gathered for a gun violence prevention conference in Danbury on Thursday, "We better get this done."

Biden said the country needs universal background checks for all weapons and that all states must enter criminal and mental health information into a national database of background checks.

The vice president said there needs to be a limit on high-capacity magazines. There was no reason for the shooter in the Aurora movie theater to have 100 rounds, he said.

The assault weapons ban needs to be reenacted and strengthened, he said, and there must be a federal gun trafficking law so that prosecutors can go after traffickers.

To those who say assault weapons are needed to protect oneself, Biden said, "They are wrong." To those who say it isn't about guns, he said, "They are wrong, it is,"

"Our culture isn't killing people," he said. It's high-capacity magazines and people not going through background checks, he said.

More than 150 people gathered at Western Connecticut State University for the conference and to hear Biden, who is in charge of the Obama administration's efforts to compose new federal legislation in the wake of the school shooting that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra also said "it is time to act."

"Don't let the tragedy in Newtown be another event" in a long list of mass shootings, she said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlined his proposed changes to gun laws at the conference, which was also attended by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

At the federal level, more resources are needed for police officers, school resource officers and mental health professionals, Biden said.

Federal law also needs to be changed so that the government may study gun violence, he said. The Centers for Deasise Control can't even keep records on gun violence, Biden said.

"We can't remain silent," he said."We must speak for the 20 children who died."

Biden said he admired he courage of Newtown residents. "You are a hell of a lot more courageous than I am."

He said when he thinks of the courage the people of Newtown have shown it is not too much to ask legislators to show some courage, too.

"It is unacceptable not to take it on," he said. He said he believes those who do not act would pay a political price.

Earlier, Blumenthal said he agrees with Malloy that the tragedy in Newtown has changed all of us.

"Preventing gun violence was thought to be untouchable two months ago," Blumenthal. But the "unspeakable horror" in Newtown has gathered "unstoppable momentum," he said.

Since Newtown, 1,900 other victims have died from gun violence he said. No state can deal with it alone, he said.

At the federal level, Blumenthal said he wants to see a ban on high capacity magazines, a law that prevents illegal trafficking of guns, an expanded assault weapons ban and background check databases strengthened.

States are not independent islands when it comes to gun violence, he said.

"A federal agenda is necessary and you are a part of it," he said.

The American people and political leadership both have to work hard to make this happen, Blumenthal said.

Murphy said having Biden, Malloy and Duncan at the conference makes it possible to get something done.

"The 'Connecticut effect' is not passing us, it is galvanizing us," said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District.

She said the leadership and courage of local leaders and Connecticut residents was unbelievable in the face of so much loss.

"You get up every morning and tell your story and you make sure your country moves forward every day," she said.

Blumenthal asked panelists if more gun control is needed at the federal level and whether better gun safety training and safety locks are needed.

Dom Basile, a sportsman, said he thought access to guns is the crux of the problem. He said the mother of shooter Adam Lanza "did not have the guns properly secured." He said the state's anti-gun trafficking task force needs to be funded again.

Stacy Spell, a retired detective from New Haven, said he agreed. "Straw buyers who purchase guns from Virginia and North Carolina need to be stopped."

Many panelists said the laws on the books needed to be enforced.

"The best laws don't work if they are not enforced," Blumenthal said.

Source: (c)2013 The Day (New London, Conn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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