WHITE HOUSE — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Friday repeated the Obama administration’s call for nationwide background checks for anyone who buys a gun in the United States. The White House is trying to build public support for a series of gun control initiatives.
Biden and two Cabinet secretaries visited the southern city of Richmond, Virginia, to talk with private citizens, and local and state officials about ways to prevent further gun violence in the United States.
The vice president called for legislation requiring potential gun buyers to be checked for mental health and other issues, with the results entered into a nationwide database.
“There should be universal background checks. Universal background checks. It in no way impacts upon someone’s ability, under the Constitution, to own a gun. Zero. Zero,” said Biden.
Tipping point for action
After 20 children and six adults were gunned down at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, last month, President Barack Obama appointed Biden to assemble recommendations on measures to prevent further gun violence.
The vice president said Friday the Newtown killings shook the nation’s conscience. He also said the shooting deaths of 32 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University [Virginia Tech] in 2007 by a gunman with a history of mental illness, showed the need for tighter background checks.
“There is a significant need for an additional serious, as the Congress says, fact-based-research on how and what circumstances are you able to identify people with a propensity, if that is possible. Secondly, how and when we should intervene,” said Biden.
Friday’s trip to Richmond is one of a number of trips administration officials are expected to take in the coming weeks to build support for the president’s gun control proposals.
The president has conducted several campaign-style tours of the country to promote various initiatives, including job creation and fiscal policy.
Support and opposition
While public opinion polls show that most Americans favor the majority of Obama’s gun proposals, they face stiff opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association [NRA], which has about 4 million members.
The NRA points to surveys that show almost 90 percent of its members reject legislation to ban assault weapons.
A statement from the group said “Americans know gun bans do not work,” in response to legislation proposed Thursday by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, to ban 157 types of semiautomatic weapons.
While in Richmond, Biden did not publicly mention the proposed bans on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on gun violence on January 30. The NRA’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, is scheduled to testify, as is gun control advocate Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot at a public appearance in 2011.