WHITE HOUSE —
Vice President Joe Biden began three days of meetings with various groups Wednesday to discuss gun violence. The vice president will advise President Barack Obama on ways to tackle the problem.
Vice President Biden sat down with victims’ groups and gun safety organizations to hear their stories of gun violence.
He said the problem requires immediate action. “The president and I are determined to take action. This is not an exercise in photo opportunities or just getting to ask you all, well, what your opinions are. We are vitally interested in what you have to say," he said.
The push for increased gun control came after 20 children and six adults were shot and killed last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Days later, President Obama directed Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of January.
The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Dan Gross, said he told officials at the meeting that even many members of the National Rifle Association agree that some anti-violence measures are needed.
“No NRA member or hunter wants to see 20 children murdered in a school in Connecticut, or a young man taken away from us on a bus in Chicago. Nobody wants that," he said.
The vice president said that meetings he and Cabinet secretaries are having with various interested groups will help the president form his policy.
“The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We have not decided what that is yet. But we are compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the Cabinet members, as well as legislative action we believe is required," he said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney says in addition to executive action, the president is asking Congress for tighter restrictions on guns and ammunition.
“Pass the assault weapons ban, pass legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines, pass a bill that would close loopholes in our background check system," he said.
Obama hopes to announce new initiatives on gun violence shortly after he begins his second term on January 20.
The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, warned this week that congressional action on gun legislation may have to wait until lawmakers address spending and debt concerns.
Despite the public outrage over the shooting in Connecticut, many Americans are wary of any government actions that might infringe on their constitutional right to own guns.
The powerful National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun owners’ group, has rejected tougher gun laws and proposed instead that the government put armed guards in every U.S. school.
Vice President Biden will meet with the NRA and other gun owners’ groups on Thursday. The nation’s largest gun seller, Walmart stores, has also agreed to take part.
Gun advocates have said new policies on violence should include reforms to mental health policies and an examination of the effects of violent movies and video games.
Administration officials plan to meet this week with representatives of the video game and entertainment industries, as well as mental health advocates.
Meetings are also scheduled with parent and teacher groups, community organizations, business owners and religious leaders.