WASHINGTON — Pledging swift action to curb gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden says he will deliver new proposals to President Barack Obama by next Tuesday.
Biden said Thursday that while he had not finalized his recommendations, a consensus was emerging over banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as tightening background checks.
Some of those measures are likely to face opposition from some pro-gun groups, most notably the National Rifle Association. A representative from the NRA met with Biden Thursday afternoon and, in a statement, suggested the group was unlikely to be a willing partner.
“We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen,” the group said in a statement at the end of a 95-minute meeting.
Biden has also said the administration is weighing executive action in addition to recommending legislation by Congress. Those steps could include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that about 40 percent of gun sales are made without background checks, often at gun shows and over the Internet.
Obama, after the horrific shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn., appointed Biden to lead a task force on preventing gun violence. He set a late January deadline for reommendations, which he pledged to act on swiftly.
The vice president said Thursday that while no recommendations would eliminate all future mass shootings, “there has got to be some common ground, to not solve every problem but diminish the probability.”
The NRA, the nation’s largest gun-rights group, has worked to block gun-control efforts in the past and is opposing any new ones. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre rejected efforts to tighten gun laws and instead recommended putting armed guards in all schools.
LaPierre was not scheduled to attend the White House meeting. Instead, the NRA dispatched its top lobbyist, James Baker, who has worked with Biden previously on gun issues.
White House officials recognize it is unlikely the NRA will fully support measures Obama is pushing. But the administration may need to soften the NRA’s opposition if it hopes to rally support from pro-gun lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The NRA, too, seemed eager to rally its allies in Congress.
“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment,” the group said in its statement.
“We will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of Congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not.”
Biden was also meeting Thursday with sportsmen and wildlife organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Outdoor Industry Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Firearms Import/Export Roundtable.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest firearms seller, was meeting separately with Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday along with other retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Representatives from the Brady Campaign joined other victims’ groups and gun safety organizations for meetings with Biden on Wednesday. The vice president said the steps the administration is considering could “take thousands of people out of harm’s way” and improve the safety of millions more.
“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 said. “It’s critically important we act.”
The Newtown shootings pushed gun control to the top of Obama’s domestic agenda for the first time during his presidency. He was largely silent on the hot-button political issue 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.
The president hopes to announce his administration’s next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term and has pledged to push for new measures in his State of the Union address.
Executive action idea opposed
U.S. House members from Oklahoma commented Thursday on the prospect of executive action by President Barack Obama regarding gun control:
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville: “What the president and the executive branch are trying to do on gun control is absurd.
“The president’s use of executive orders to limit Second Amendment rights is only a tactic to bypass Congress and force untested laws onto the American people. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is required to be the primary source of federal legislation, and I will fight to ensure that Congress does not abandon our responsibility to the American people by delegating our role in government to the executive branch, particularly regarding such an important issue as the Second Amendment. I will continue to fight against the President’s agenda on gun control. As American citizens we have the Constitutional right to bear arms.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore: “Imposing new gun control regulations through executive order is completely unacceptable.
“Rushing through new laws that limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners is not the answer to gun violence. This is a complex cultural, legal and mental health issue that requires a deliberative and transparent debate among the American people and their representatives in Congress. I’m confident House Republicans would act to override any presidential order that subverts the legislative process to infringe on Second Amendment rights.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne: “I share the concerns of my constituents on any usurpation of power from Congress that the President might use through executive order to restrict gun rights.
“Such actions would be a blatant disregard for the legislative branch and the appropriate process of enacting laws.
“I believe at this current time, when emotions are high, it is important for leaders of our country to take a step back and make sound and rational decisions while considering all factors contributing to recent tragedies. As a Congressman representing the Third District of Oklahoma, I will continue to fight for citizens’ Second Amendment rights.”
From staff reports