Vice President Biden Presents President’s Plan to Protect America from Gun Violence to Mayors
By Lina Garcia
January 28, 2013
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a strong address on the first day of the 81st Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors, detailing a plan released by the Obama Administration for curbing gun violence in America. In his January 17 remarks, Biden told the hundreds of mayors present that, “It’s nice to talk to a group of leaders who I agree with on 80 percent of the issues, 90 percent of the time.”
The Vice President chose the event to unveil, point by point for the first time, Now: Is The Time: The President’s Plan to Protect Our Children and Our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence. “Although there is no absolute unanimity on how to solve the issue of gun violence, there is a need to end the carnage in our schools and in our streets,” he said.
Biden told the mayors he recognizes that all of them deal with gun violence everyday. “I’m not going to ask for a show of hands but how many of you have had to attend a funeral for a police officer, an innocent child at a drive-by shooting or a shop owner killed in your city?”
The Vice President mentioned that it’s not just in big cities where gun violence can take place, but it can happen anywhere. He said in the last several years, about 25 people have died in mass homicides every single day. He added, “As much as we intend on making schools our focus or more secure, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said, the truth is most schools are safe. It’s going to and from schools that young people are in the gravest danger.”
Biden said one of the reasons President Obama charged him with coming up with a plan to address gun violence, was his experience on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The President asked him to convene a special working group of experts and quickly, conduct a survey and present him with key recommendations. Experts convened as part of the group included Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.Biden said he and other leaders also met with more than 2,000 groups offering a wide range of perspectives, including members of the law enforcement community, gun safety advocates, victims of mass shootings, hunters, gun owners and the NRA. Other groups also included representatives of the video game and movie industries, educators, retailers and public health officials. The Vice President said he also spoke to many mayors, along with governors and county executives. He added that a set of principles were used to guide their plan based on conversations with various groups, as well as after reviewing documents that had been written in the past. They include:
- President Obama and Biden support the 2nd amendment and it comes with the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to own guns.
- Certain people in society should not, and legally cannot be qualified to own a gun because they are unstable or they are dangerous.
- We should make common sense judgments about keeping dangerous weapons off our streets.
- This issue isn’t just about guns. Its about the “coarsening of our culture” whether its with video games or movies or behavior.
The Vice President said the comprehensive plan includes a common'sense approach where he believes there is overwhelming consensus.
Speaking about the gun culture in America that varies from region to region, Biden said, “It’s a big business, as well as institutional; it is cultural. But it’s really important for those of you who have strong feelings on gun control, to understand that its part of the ethic where a lot of us come from.”
Determining Who Can Own Guns
One of the questions that Biden asked groups he met with, was who should be legally prohibited from owning a gun? He said that current law has evolved overtime. For example, following the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, in 1968 Congress passed what was then the Gun Control Act.
Then he added that in 1994, under his leadership, the Violence Against Women Act was passed, and a new category of people who were prohibited against owning a gun.
Biden said he has recommended to the President, that the Attorney General examine whether any other people should be added to that category. For example right now, certain convicted stalkers can still purchase a gun. The Vice President admitted that the most delicate area is in the mental health area, which requires a great deal of study. He said that ironically, this is where pro-gun owners are more inclined to deny ownership and anti-gun groups are more inclined to say, leave them alone,“ it’s privacy.”
Closing Background Check Loopholes
The Vice President said that the NICS background check system must also be examined, and that right now the information put into that system is woefully incomplete. “States are supposed to have the mental health records available for people who can’t have guns. But today, there are 17 states that have made fewer than ten mental health records available on the background checks system but yet there are tens of thousands of felons.”
President Obama has called for $20 million to be redirected to the states, to update those records and make them available. This would happen with support from the Justice Department. Biden said the federal government has also failed to do their part to share information, leading President Obama to issue an Executive Order calling on the federal government to share information within their lawful possession.
Banning Military-Style Assault Weapons, High Capacity Magazines
Biden said another question discussed was what kinds of guns should be swept off our streets. He said President Obama believes that there should be newer stronger assault weapons bans. “We are calling for the prohibition of high capacity magazines all together. High capacity magazines leave victims with no chance and leave policeman outgunned sometimes too,” Biden said.
The Vice President said that if the assailant who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, hadn’t been stopped from putting in a new clip, by a woman nearby, there would have been many other victims in the Arizona shooting. “High capacity magazines in our view are not worth the risk,” he added.
Making Schools Safer
The Vice President added that the Administration has already directed OMB, to provide another $4 billion dollars in grants for the COPS program. “The next question we ask is how to we make our streets and schools safer, and we believe cops make our streets safer,” said Biden. But the Vice President quickly clarified that the program would be used to support community policing. He said the resources could be used by a community as needed, and under their discretion. “I’m proposing a new school safety program that funds officers but also gives your community the flexibility to apply it for other priorities like a psychologist,” said Biden.
The Vice President added that they don’t want ‘rent-a-cops’ or officers who are not trained. The Administration also wants to make sure that every school has a reliable emergency response plan.
“So one of the few things that the federal government historically can do is figure out what best practices are, especially by working with mayors. But we’re asking the Congress to fund safety implementation programs,” added Vice President Biden.
Improving Mental Health Services
Biden said that the Administration is proposing ways to improve access to mental health services, so that people get help they need before its too late. “What happens when people age out of Medicaid and there’s nothing they can do? We’re calling on Congress to provide support for persons who work with children everyday who need mental health services and look for the warning signs,” said Biden.
Prevent Gun Trafficking
The Vice President said that another important issue is how to prevent gun trafficking and it starts with creating a federal trafficking statute for guns. “We have one for drugs so why can’t we have one for guns?” said Biden. According to Biden, in New York 68 percent of illegal guns are purchased outside the state.
End Freeze of Gun Violence Research
The Vice President stated that we need to do a better job about understanding gun violence. He said that we need long-term studies on the impacts of young minds that witnesses repeatedly violent acts. “It’s not a judgment on the entertainment industries, it is just something we need to study more closely. Quite frankly we don’t have extensive data and as an informed society we need more extensive data,” added Biden. Biden said that the President has signed a directive asking the CDC to collect that data.
The Vice President concluded by stating that too many in this country have been silent too long on the issue of guns. “We cannot be silent any longer. What happened in Newtown is not just about gun violence, it is about regaining civility in our society,” said Biden.