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Biden Seeks To Rally All Sides Of Gun Debate

Jan 12, 2013
Originally published on January 12, 2013 12:08 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Vice President Joe Biden met with factions in the gun debate this week, from the National Rifle Association to the families of the Virginia Tech shootings. On Tuesday, the vice president will present the recommendations of the task force on gun violence that he has been leading to President Obama. We're joined now by NPR's Brian Naylor who's been covering the gun debate in Washington D.C. Brian, thanks for being with us.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: We've heard talk about universal background checks, including private gun sales, maybe something about high capacity magazines. What do you think these recommendations might be from what we've heard already?

NAYLOR: I think it's likely to be a mixture of some of the legislative things like reinstituting the ban on the assault weapons, the military-style rifles like the one used in the Newtown school shooting that relaunched this debate. There will be a proposal probably to ban the high capacity ammunition magazines.

Vice President Biden also hinted at a number of other sets he's likely to urge, including universal background checks on people buying guns and figuring out a way how to strengthen those background checks. For instance, he noted that convicted felons are prohibited from buying weapons but that states don't always report those felons on a timely basis to the National Crime Database.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS STATEMENT)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It doesn't do a whole lot of good if in some states they have a backlog of 40-50-60,000 felons that they never register here. So we've got to talk about - there's a lot of talk about how we entice or what is the impediment keeping states from relaying this information.

SIMON: Brian, we've mentioned that the vice president met with a number of different groups. The National Rifle Association came out of that meeting, saying that the White House has an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. So no perceptible change in their position, but what about some of the other parties?

NAYLOR: Yeah. The NRA doesn't seem to be giving any ground but other groups are, especially those on the gun control side of things; are much more hopeful that this taskforce will lead to some changes. The Brady Campaign called on Congress to pass a law making gun trafficking a federal offense, which it isn't now, and to close that so-called gun show loophole which allows about 40 percent of gun sales to take place without background checks.

Those sales that occur, you know, at gun shows or between private individuals.

SIMON: And of course some of the most forceful voices we've heard in this debate have been outside of the chambers in Washington, D.C.

NAYLOR: That's right. And we heard some governors speak this week - in New York, where Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State message. He made a very impassioned plea for a ban on assault weapons.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS)

GOVERNOR MARIO CUOMO: Too many innocent people have died already. End the madness now.

NAYLOR: And in Connecticut where the Sandy Hook school shootings last month Governor Dan Malloy called for a ban on large magazines. And even out West, you know, where guns have always been part of the mythology and culture, there have been calls for tightening some restrictions. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper this week called for universal background checks on gun sales.

SIMON: What's the effect of hearing these voices come from outside Washington, D.C. politically?

NAYLOR: Well, I think it's interesting because the big bottleneck has been in Congress trying to get legislation passed for many years. There's been no appetite whatsoever. So I think when you hear from these states that they're taking action, number one, it indicates that there is some sentiment to tighten controls in those states, and also it at least lends the sense of momentum behind this effort to get legislation through Congress.

SIMON: Of course, this week also saw the second anniversary of another mass shooting, the one in Tucson that wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and left six people dead.

NAYLOR: That's right. And she and her husband Mark Kelly began a new group, a political action committee they announced this week called Americans for Responsible Solutions. Mark Kelly explained the group this week on ABC.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

MARK KELLY: Now, I have a gun. Gabby and I are both gun owners. We are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. But we've got to do something to keep the guns from getting into the wrong hands.

NAYLOR: Scott, that group has already received reportedly seven-figure donations including from the widow of Steve Jobs. Still, they have a long ways to go to match the NRA which last year gave some $20 million to political candidates.

SIMON: NPR's Brian Naylor. Thanks very much.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.