WASHINGTON — Vice President Joseph Biden will deliver his recommendations for comprehensive gun violence legislation on Tuesday.
“There is really a very tight window to do this,” he told the press corps during his announcement Thursday.
The recommendations are expected to address a number of angles and topics on gun policy, ranging from the availability of certain firearms and ammunition to data collection between federal and state law enforcement agencies. Biden announced that a top priority would be to create a more thorough system of background checks to prevent those with criminal histories or mental illness from purchasing weapons.
“So far,” he said, there has been “a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks. Not just closing the gun show loophole, but have total universal background checks including in private sales.”
Biden’s recommendations won’t immediately be turned into a legislative proposal. It will be up to President Barack Obama to decide how and when to act. But they will represent the first major step in a delicate legislative process to respond to a series of mass shootings, most recently the killing of 20 elementary-school students in Newtown, Conn.
For advocates of a strong legislative response, Thursday’s comments offered reason for hope. The vice president suggested that both he and others with whom he has consulted were looking to tackle the issue of high-capacity magazines, which have been a feature in many of the most recent high-profile shootings.
“I have never quite heard as much talk about the need to do something about high capacity magazines as I’ve heard spontaneously from every group we have met with so far,” Biden said. An attendee at one of the vice president’s sessions, meanwhile, said that he was leaning towards recommending some form of regulation of assault weapons as well.
The vice president has held a series of meetings with various stakeholders to gain input and insight for his proposals. On Thursday, he talked with advocates for sportsmen and women and wildlife interest groups. On Wednesday, he held a conference call with governors of both parties and other state and local leaders, in addition to holding a discussion with faith leaders.
“He was calling on us and hoping we would use our moral voices and persuasion to push this conversation into a more meaningful and unifying path,” said Rev. Michael McBride, head of PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign, and an attendee at the meeting. “He communicated that there was kind of a consistent theme of very common proposals and gun reforms that included background checks, stronger regulations on assault weapons and mental heath considerations.”
Later on Thursday, Biden will hold his highest-stakes meeting when he gathers with gun-owner groups, including a representative from the National Rifle Association.
“We realize this is requires all the stakeholders to give us their best ideas as to how we deal with … a complicated problem,” Biden explained. “There is no single answer.”
UPDATE — 4:04 p.m.: The NRA released the following statement regarding today’s White House task force meeting:
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.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. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners – honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works – and what does not.