The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 9, 2013

Biden pledges action on guns

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday vowed urgent action against gun violence in America, pledging steps by the Obama administration that he said could “take thousands of people out of harm’s way” and improve the safety of millions more.

But a day ahead of a meeting with the National Rifle Association, which has sunk past gun control efforts and is opposing any new ones, Biden signaled that the administration is mindful of political realities that could imperil sweeping gun control legislation, and is willing to settle for something less. He said the administration is considering its own executive action as well as measures by Congress, but he offered no specifics.

“I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing,” Biden told an array of gun control advocates, crime victims and others at the White House. “It’s critically important we act.”

After last month’s slaughter in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama tasked Biden with heading a commission to come up with recommendations on gun policy.

Obama supports steps including reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and closing loopholes that allow many gun buyers to avoid background checks.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said about 40 percent of gun sales lack background checks.

The tragedy in Newtown, in which 20 young children and six adults were gunned down by a man with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, has prodded action. Obama had remained largely silent on gun control after the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 12 others including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the Colorado movie theater killing of a dozen people and wounding of many more last July.

For Biden, today will bring a tougher audience when the NRA joins a meeting at the White House along with other gun-owner groups and retailers including Wal-Mart. NRA officials didn’t return messages for comment Wednesday but the group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has dismissed the assault weapons ban as “a phony piece of legislation” and has recommended putting armed guards in all schools as a way to stop another school shooting.

Biden said he wanted to hear from “all parties, on whatever side of this debate you fall.”

The president hopes to announce his administration’s next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21.

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