Vice President Joe Biden is expected to present the findings of his task force on gun violence to President Obama Tuesday.
As Washington awaits the results, some congressmen and congressional staffers expressed concern that Biden’s week-and-a-half long inquiry into gun violence has been marked by partisanship and has favored the Obama administration’s existing views on gun policy, while ignoring concerns about the entertainment industry.
Obama instructed Biden’s White House Task Force on Gun Violence to meet with various interest groups to discuss ideas for preventing future mass gun violence in the wake of December’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Following Biden’s presentation Tuesday, Obama will introduce a proposal later this week.
Obama stated Monday that he will “vigorously pursue” recommendations from Biden’s task force for a renewed assault weapons ban, despite acknowledging that the proposal may not pass Congress. Though he met briefly with Biden Monday, Obama made the statement one day before Biden’s final presentation on his findings.
“It’s all being done very quickly,” one insider told the Daily Caller.
During his series of closed-door meetings, Biden discussed with House Democrats the possibility of Obama enacting gun control through executive action, without passing legislation through Congress. Biden made little progress in his brief talk with the National Rifle Association (NRA). He showed little interest in targeting the entertainment industry, which made vast contributions to the Obama-Biden re-election campaign. Biden also indicated that the Obama 2012 campaign’s existing infrastructure can be used to mobilize public support for gun control.
Biden’s task force included Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The meetings have achieved mixed results.
Biden met with the NRA last Thursday. The NRA released a statement after the meeting declaring, “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 NRA also criticized Biden’s unwillingness to explore the entertainment aspect of the gun violence issue.
Biden’s Thursday night meeting with Hollywood’s chief lobbying group the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), headed by former Democratic senator Chris Dodd, was much friendlier, attendees claim.
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, entertainment lobbyists stressed to Biden that any new content restrictions on Hollywood products would violate the movie industry’s First Amendment rights. Biden made clear during the meeting that he had no intention of committing such a violation.
“Hollywood gives a lot of money to Obama,” Republican Virginia congressman Frank Wolf told theDC. “Obama had a lot of fundraisers out there. You have to ask, is he going to look at entertainment the same way he’s looking at guns?”
Biden and Dodd are longtime personal friends. The MPAA has maintained a close relationship with Obama since the president’s election in 2008. The entertainment industry contributed more than $6 million to Obama’s re-election campaign.
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $3 million to the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action during the 2012 election cycle. Warner Bros., headed by top Obama fundraiser Barry Meyer, is currently developing a movie based on the violent video game “Mass Effect.”
Dodd was able to secure a $430 million tax break for Hollywood studios in the recent fiscal cliff deal approved by the Obama administration.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents video game companies, met with Biden on Friday.
“I think there is a connection” between video game violence and real-life violence, Congressman Wolf told theDC.
“Grand Theft Auto. Call of Duty. These games are participatory. You’re in the movie, participating, over and over. You have 12-year old, 13-year old kids, some of them with mental problems, playing the games. There is some causal connection,” Wolf said.
Democratic West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller has also expressed concern with the video game industry, recently introducing a bill that would mandate the National Academy of Sciences to launch a study on violent video games’ impact on children.
“The problem is, the video game industry has a big lobby here in Washington,” Wolf said. “These guys are giving a lot of money to politicians.”
“We expressed in the meeting that the United States Supreme Court recently affirmed that the independent, scientific research conducted to date has found no causal connection between video games and real-life violence,” according to an ESA statement.
“I come to this meeting with no judgment,” Biden assured the video game representatives Friday.
“My sense is, you have a three-legged stool,” Wolf said. “You have to look at background checks on the gun issue. You have to look at mental health. And you have to look at entertainment. If you start looking at one, you can’t ignore the other two.”
Some insiders described the partisan nature of Biden’s task force.
The offices of numerous Republican congressmen contacted by theDC said that they were not approached in any way by Biden’s task force. “We only know what we’re reading in the papers” one GOP congressional spokesperson told theDC.
Biden met Monday morning with 12 Democratic House members from the House Democrats’ gun violence task force, which is headed by California congressman Mike Thompson. Thompson, who was handpicked by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to head the task force, has pledged to target AR-15-style rifles as part of a new assault weapons ban.
No Republicans attended the meeting.
After the meeting, Democratic California congresswoman Jackie Speir revealed on CNN that Biden discussed the 19 different ways Obama could enact gun control through executive action, without passing legislation through Congress.
Biden did not address in the meeting the cultural impact of violent imagery produced by the entertainment industry.
Biden also indicated that the existing Obama 2012 campaign infrastructure can be used to launch a public relations campaign supporting gun control, according to Speir.
Obama and Biden will have lunch together Tuesday afternoon.