Gun Laws & Legislation

Biden to recommend universal background checks, federal database on gun-related deaths

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Vice President Joe Biden’s gun policy recommendations to President Barack Obama will likely include universal background checks, new regulations on high-capacity magazines, and using a federal agency to compile data about gun-related deaths, he said Thursday.

Speaking after a meeting with sportsmen’s groups, the first of three on Thursday, Biden said that he had “committed” to Obama to pass along his recommendations by next Tuesday.

The meetings are part of the task force on guns that Biden is heading in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children dead. Biden has been meeting with a variety of groups representing “stakeholders,” including the law enforcement community, the medical community, pro-gun control groups and the “mental health community” — which Biden said has been a particular focus.

“There is nothing that has pricked the consciousness of the American people, there is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the image people have of little six year old kids riddled, not shot, but riddled, riddled, with bullet holes in their classroom” Biden said, according to the pool report.

The above recommendations, Biden said, were things that he had heard repeated by many of the groups with which he had met — both advocates of gun control and gun enthusiasts.

Biden said universal background checks should not just be limited to “closing the gun show loophole,” and should be required for all sales, “including private sales.”

A major point of that discussion, he said, was “how we strengthen our background checks. What additional information should be available, if any, and how do we get the information.”

“For example,” he said, “convicted felons in a state — how do they get on the NICS, that is the thing the gun dealer goes to check when you are a felon. It doesn’t do a lot of good when in some states they have a backlog of forty-, fifty-, sixty-thousand felons that they never registered,” he said.

As far as data gathering goes, Biden said it was necessary for some government agency to be given the authority to compile data on gun violence.

“As you know there are restrictions now on any agency in the government just gathering the information about what kind of weapons are used most to kill people. How many weapons used are trafficked weapons? Are weapons used in gang warfare in our major cities — are they legally purchased or are they purchased through strawmen? We don’t have that information. And the irony is we are prohibited under laws and appropriations bills from acquiring it,” Biden said.

Biden noted that he himself was “an owner of shotguns” — “I’m no great hunter, it’s mostly skeet shooting for me.”

He has two other meetings on Thursday with gun owners’ groups — including the National Rifle Association — and then with representatives of the entertainment industry. Biden said he still hoped to be able to organize a call with gun manufacturers.

“There has got to be some common ground to not solve every problem but diminish the probability that what we have seen in these mass shootings will occur, and diminish the probability that our children are at risk in our schools, and diminish the probability that weapons will be used and firearms will be used in dealing with aberrant behavior that takes place in our society,” Biden said.

“So that’s what this is all about. There is no conclusion that I have reached,” Biden said, saying he would merely send recommendations to the President next week.

“I’m not sure we can guarantee this will never happen again, but, as the President said, even if we can only save one life it would make sense,” Biden said. “And I think we can do a great a great deal without in any way imposing on and impinging on the rights of the Second Amendment.”

Present at the first meeting, according to information provided by the White House, were representatives of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, BlueWater Strategies, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance Action Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Outdoor Industry Association, Pheasants Forever, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Wildlife Management Institute. Attorney General Eric Holder, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Biden’s Chief of Staff Bruce Reed, Vice Presidential counsel Cynthia Hogan, and Steve Croley of the White House Counsel’s office.

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