Vice President Joe Biden addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Thursday, as the organization held its 81st annual winter meeting in Washington. Biden made a push for the mayors to support President Obama’s gun-control agenda, which was unveiled Wednesday.
Last week, Biden held a series of meetings with 229 groups, including the National Rifle Association and law enforcement, to come up with a set of comprehensive gun-control recommendations – which President Obama adopted.
The president needs bipartisan support if he hopes to get gun legislation passed in Congress but is preparing for a tough battle with Republicans and gun rights advocates on the issue. Advocates of the president’s gun-control agenda hope the tragedy in Newtown will continue to send a unifying message.
“I hope we all agree that there is a need to respond to the carnage on our streets and in our schools,” Biden said as he addressed the mayors. “I hope we all agree that mass shootings like the ones that we witnessed the Newtown 34 days ago cannot continue to be tolerated.”
“That tragedy, in all my years in public life, I think has affected the public psyche in a way that I’ve never seen before,” Biden continued. “The image of first graders not only shot but riddled with bullets. Parents in the streets panicking, trying to find out if the child they put on the bus in the morning had any prospect of getting back on that bus and going home that afternoon.”
Much of the argument surrounding the gun control debate has been about assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – like those used in most mass shootings. “High-capacity magazines leave victims with no chance, and all too often leave police outgunned as well,” stated Biden.
The National Rifle Association has come out against banning such weapons, stating that most of the shootings in America occur with handguns – a fact not lost on Biden.
“It isn’t just about mass shootings,” Biden explained, “it’s about gun violence of all kinds. Think of it this way, over the last several years, about 25 people die of gun related homicides in this country every single day, which is the equivalent of the third most deadly mass shooting in history happening every 24 hours...
“But we don’t see that on the news very much anymore. We hear about mass shootings but not the everyday gun violence that’s ravaging our cities.”
Biden stressed that he and President Obama support the Second Amendment, and acknowledged that law-abiding citizens have the right to own guns to use for protection as well as recreation. He also recognized that gun-control principles vary for different parts of the country.
“We recognize how different all of our states and cities are,” said Biden. “How different the gun culture is, a healthy gun culture, in rural America and in urban America.
“Recognizing those differences, he continued, doesn’t in any way negate the rational prospect of being able to come up with commonsense approaches to how to deal with the myriad problems that relate to gun ownership.”
However, he asserted that a certain segment of society should not own a gun because they are mentally “unstable or dangerous.” Universal background checks was one of the recommendations Biden made to the president.
Biden acknowledged that universal background checks might be an inconvenience to some, but the inconvenience is minor compared to the “potential hole it may plug in the system.”
Although total comprehensive gun-control presents an uphill battle for the Obama administration, Biden encouraged more people to speak out on the issue.
“Let me acknowledge the truth, too many in this country have been silent too long,” Biden said to applause.
“We cannot be silent any longer. Those 20 beautiful children who lost their lives in Newtown are no longer able to speak for themselves, we have to speak for them.