Biden, NRA clash over control proposals
ASSOCIATED PRESS January 11, 2013 8:02AM
Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, gestures as he speaks during a meeting with Sportsmen and Women and Wildlife Interest Groups and member of his cabinet, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Biden is holding a series of meetings this week as part of the effort he is leading to develop policy proposals in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Updated: January 11, 2013 9:06AM
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. gun lobby rejected Obama administration proposals to reduce gun violence Friday, saying it expects to have enough support in Congress to fend off bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
President Barack Obama has pushed reducing gun violence to the top of his domestic agenda following last month’s shooting of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school. Vice President Joe Biden leads a task force on policy proposals and has promised to send ideas to Obama by Tuesday.
Obama hopes to announce steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term later this month.
The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups met with Biden on Thursday, and the NRA emerged with its objections to any gun restrictions intact. The group wants to have an armed security officer in every school in the country instead.
“I do not think that there’s going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons passed by the Congress,” NRA president David Keene told NBC on Friday morning.
Opposition from the well-funded, politically powerful NRA underscores the challenges that await the White House if it seeks congressional approval for limiting guns and ammunition.
The NRA and many Americans consider individual gun ownership a basic right, citing the Constitution’s Second Amendment that gives citizens the right to bear arms. Gun control advocates counter that the Second Amendment never was intended to allow ordinary citizens to wield military-style weapons like the legally purchased high-powered rifle used in the Connecticut shooting.
Obama can use his executive powers to act alone on some gun measures, but his options on the proposals opposed by the NRA are limited without Congress’ cooperation.
Biden on Thursday acknowledged that the issue is a complicated one, but he added, “The public wants us to act,”
Participants in Thursday’s meeting described it as open and frank but said it yielded little movement from either side on long-held positions.
Richard Feldman, the president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, said all were in agreement on a need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people with mental health issues. But when the conversation turned to broad restrictions on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, Feldman said Biden suggested the president had already made up his mind to seek a ban.
“Is there wiggle room and give?” Feldman said. “I don’t know.”
White House officials said the vice president didn’t expect to win over the NRA and other gun groups on those key issues. But the administration was hoping to soften their opposition in order to rally support from pro-gun lawmakers in Congress.
Biden’s proposals are also expected to include recommendations to address mental health care and violence on television and in movies and video games. Those issues have wide support from gun rights groups and pro-gun lawmakers.
The vice president also met Thursday with representatives from the entertainment industry, including Comcast Corp. and the Motion Picture Association of America. He’ll hold talks Friday with the video game industry.
Biden also talked about holes in NICS — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — when states don’t relay information to the database used by dealers to check purchasers. Advocates blame Congress for not fully funding a law that provides money to help states send records to the database.
Gun control backers see plenty of room for executive action when it comes to improving background checks and other areas.
For example, advocates say Obama could order the Justice Department to prosecute more people flagged by background checks as prohibited purchasers when they try to buy guns; expand a rule that requires dealers to notify the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives when someone tries to buy multiple semiautomatic rifles, a program now confined to Mexico border states, and increase enforcement actions at gun shows.
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has sent the White House 40 steps it says would save lives and dramatically improve enforcement of existing laws without any action by Congress.