News Column

Biden: 'Show the Courage' on Gun Laws

March 22, 2013

Richard Drew, AP

Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)
Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)

As Congress inched closer to a vote on gun-control measures, Vice President Biden and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday questioned lawmakers who have been hesitant to get behind their push for sweeping changes.

After meeting in New York with Bloomberg and families and friends of several victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., Biden called on lawmakers to "show the courage" that victims of the Newtown tragedy demonstrated.

"It must be awful to be in public office and concluding -- that even though you might believe you should take action -- that you can't take action, because of the political consequence you may face," Biden said. "What a heck of a way to make a living."

Biden's comments came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced this week that he hoped to have a bill to address gun violence on the Senate floor early next month. He said the broad package will not include the assault weapons ban, a core element of President Obama's agenda to curb gun violence. The ban is still likely to get a vote by the full Senate as an amendment to the gun bill, but Reid said he counted only about 40 votes for it.

"Everyone is going to have to stand up and say yea or nay," said Bloomberg, an active proponent of tighter gun control. He spent more than $2million of his own money to defeat a pro-gun candidate in a special congressional election last month in Illinois. "Then the rest of us have to decide just how we feel about people and their stances."

While the White House and gun control advocates have made a hard push for the assault weapons ban since the Dec. 14 tragedy at Newtown, the ban has been seen as of less importance than winning approval for universal background checks.

Still, Biden, who has served as the point man in the public push for Obama's gun agenda, has repeatedly pilloried gun rights advocates who have resisted reinstituting the ban.

On Thursday, Biden said an assault weapons ban, which had been passed by Congress in 1994 but expired in 2004, could have reduced the death toll in the Sandy Hook incident that left 20 children and six adults dead. "For all those who say we shouldn't and can't ban assault weapons ... how can they say that? When you take a look at those 20 beautiful babies."

Biden, who was one the prime backers of the assault weapons ban when it passed in 1994, suggested that the press for the ban will continue beyond next month's expected votes. "I was told in 1992 that there was no way you would never beat the gun lobby -- it was not possible," he said. "Well, in 1994, we did."

The National Rifle Association has fiercely opposed the administration's push to revive the assault weapons ban. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said on Thursday that his organization was not letting up in its push on lawmakers to oppose the ban, despite the seeming long odds for it to become law.

"We are working real hard to make sure it doesn't pass, and that means in bill form or in an amendment form," Arulanandam said. "We're dealing with an administration that has two strident supporters of gun control at the top."

Vice President Biden, flanked by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, talks about gun violence Thursday at New York City Hall.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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