Hours before leading the U.S. Senate on a critical vote on gun safety, Vice President Joe Biden (pictured) had a Google Plus hangout with a group of mayors seeking to reduce street violence with new gun control laws on Wednesday.
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Biden, a longtime champion for stronger gun regulations, called the White House effort to restrict guns “common sense” and said the spate of recent mass shootings in Connecticut, Colorado, and Wisconsin show the time is right for the greater regulation of guns.
“You are the ones who have to get the gang bangers,” Biden said to Mayors Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Ind.; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis; and Steve Scaffidi of Oak Creek Wisconsin. “You are the ones who have to go to the funerals. You see it every day. And that is why we see thousands of people posting online in support of rational gun safety measures.”
The Senate was scheduled to vote on nine changes to the gun control bill with the most-controversial piece being a proposal to expand the number of background checks on gun buyers.
Most Senate watchers have predicted the expanded background check proposal will be defeated.
Biden told the mayors he expected a “close vote” on the measure and added, “We are going to get this done eventually because I think most American people are way ahead of their elected officials on this issue.”
Rawlings-Blake agreed, saying, “I saw a senator from Florida say we need to have more conversation on this issue. I wonder if their child was caught in Newtown that day, if they would think conversation was enough.”
Each of the mayors in the chat brought their own particular point to the gun control argument.
Rybak said he couldn’t understand how the gun lobby opposes outlawing of high-capacity magazines that seem to have few legitimate uses outside of the battlefield.
“How low is that bar,” Rybak asked. “We shouldn’t even need a discussion on that because it is common sense.”
Rawlings-Blake said getting national legislation is key because even though her city of Baltimore has one of the toughest gun laws on the books, too many weapons from other jurisdictions get in to the city.
“We have only one gun store in the whole city but guns come in from up and down the (Route) 95 corridor. Our laws are only as good as our neighbor’s laws.”
Spurred by the shooting in Newtown, the White House has organized a national campaign to reduce gun violence.
Obama is pushing Congress to pass proposals to add restrictions to some gun sales, ban assault rifles, and outlaw high-capacity magazines.
But the Obama plan has run in to stiff opposition led by conservatives in Congress and the powerful gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association.
The sad truth of the gun issue is that it’s unlikely that any of these laws can help keep people safe at this point: America is awash in guns. They can be purchased in stores. They can be purchased in back alleys. They can be purchased on the Internet, so putting the gun genie back in the bottle is a pipe dream.
But the goal of making the guns that are on the streets a little less lethal is a noble one.
What law-abiding citizen needs the type of firepower that was unleashed in Newtown?
And expanding the number of background checks to make sure the buyer of a gun isn’t a criminal or mentally unbalanced also makes all the sense in the world.
As Biden said, it’s all just common sense.