Meeting with representatives from gun-safety groups, survivors of gun violence and the family members of gun victims in the Cordell Hull conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building an hour before noon Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden, who was detailed by President Obama to find solutions to prevent more senseless shootings of the kind that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on December 14 of last year, said "The time has come for us to act."
President Barack Obama gave a televised address the day of the shootings: "We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
More meetings to follow
The Vice President's meeting today kicks off a week of meetings on how to address gun violence, an issue that has divided gun owners who don't want their 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms compromised from those who believe more control, in the form of background checks for anyone who purchases a gun, especially high-powered military style assault weapons that consume bullet clips that hold dozens of cartridges at a time, is needed to stanch the slew of horrific gun deaths that happened less than a month ago in Connecticut or last year at a movie theater in Colorado.
Vice President Biden, who is a favorite target of the media for his penchant to make verbal gaffes that can sometimes change the course of the White House thinking, as it did with same-sex marriage last year, was seated at a large conference table with Attorney General Eric Holder seated at his right hand. According to a White House pool report, Mr. Biden was low-key but serious in his brief opening remarks.
Included in those remarks was a thank you to the attendees for coming, many of whom had lost someone to gun violence. The vice president noted that he was eager to hear their opinions.
"Every once in a while something raises the consciousness of the nation," he said, adding, "This is a problem that requires immediate attention." He stressed that he and President Obama are determined to take action.
"I want to make clear that we're not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, were going to do nothing."
In his remarks he explained that the administration will cast a wide net in its search for input, and that tomorrow he will meet with gun owners and the National Rifle Association, the preeminent lobbying group for firearm owners.
Following the fatal shooting of 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in the town of Newtown, Connecticut, where two adults were also wounded, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that a trained professional should be posted at every school in the nation. In comments that have further exacerbated the decades old debate that has brewed hostility between gun owners and those who want more accountability and responsibility on their part, he said that the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
The NRA also announced the creation of a school protection program called the National School Shield Program, which would be led by former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) administrator and United States Congressman Asa Hutchinson.
President Obama has indicated he is skeptical that putting more guns in schools would solve this problem. The NRA said it will send a representative to the meeting tomorrow. This will be the first face-to-face conversation with the White House on this subject at this time.
"The president is going to act," Vice President Biden said, adding that the White House has determined that "executive action can be taken," even though he declined to say exactly what that action should or will be.
Obama calls on Congress to act
Previously, President Obama has called on Congress to pass the assault weapons ban, pass legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines and pass a bill that would close loopholes in the background check system. "Those are things that Congress could move on very quickly, and the President urges them to do so," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Carney said.
Mr. Carney explained to reporters today the relationship between the president and his vice president. The president and vice president spend a lot of time together and "they will continue to spend a lot of time together, and I am sure, as they do that, that this topic will come up and the Vice President will have the opportunity to informally brief the president on the progress of this effort ... And then, when the Vice President is ready to present a series of recommendations to the President, the President will consider them and then make decisions about how to proceed.
Today's meeting, Mr. Carney said, demonstrates the speed with which the President hopes to act. He added, "So he [the president] is mindful of the need to act. He is also mindful of the need to have a process in place, led by the Vice President, that allows for consideration of a variety of ideas, because he’s made the point that this is not a problem that can be solved by gun legislation alone. It is not a problem that can be solved by any specific action or single action that the government might take. It’s a problem that encompasses issues of mental health, of education, as well as access to guns. And that’s why he’s asked the Vice President to undertake the effort that he’s undertaking."
Who attended today's meeting [Source: White House]:
Vice President Joe Biden
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
Gun Safety Advocate Groups:
Arizona for Gun Safety
Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence
Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus & States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Cease Fire Pennsylvania
CT Against Gun Violence
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence
Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Mothers In Charge [[note: VPOTUS sent out note that due to scheduling conflict a rep from this group would instead be at a later meeting with other WH officials]]
Violence Policy Center
Wisconsin Anti Violence Effort
Victims & Survivors:
Colin Goddard, Survivor of Virginia Tech Shooting
Elilta Habtu, Survivor of Virginia Tech shooting
William Kellibrew, Witness to Violence & Founder, William Kellibrew Foundation
Annette Nance-Holt, Mother of Victim to Gang Violence
Lonnie Phillips, Stepfather of Aurora Shooting Victim
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