Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Wednesday that the White House is still pushing for a so-called assault weapons ban to pass Congress, even though the measure is on life support after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week it will not be part of a base bill Democrats plan to introduce next month.
Mr. Biden, who has been President Obama’s point man on the issue since December’s shooting rampage in Connecticut, said the ban that took effect in 1994 and lapsed in 2004 was declared dead several times, and that he was told then it couldn’t possibly pass.
“We are still pushing that it pass,” Mr. Biden told NPR. “I have never found that it makes any sense to support something and declare that there is no possibility of it passing. There is a lot happening. Attitudes are changing, and I think the president and I are going to continue to push and we haven’t given up on it.”
He said getting a ban on high-capacity magazines through the Senate would probably be easier than a ban on military-style, semiautomatic rifles, but simply getting a measure to require universal background checks on all gun sales through would be “gigantic.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said she plans to introduce both an assault weapons ban and a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition as amendments on the Senate floor. A bill from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, requiring background checks on virtually all gun sales has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, but its status is unclear after bipartisan talks on the measure stalled over the issue of record-keeping on gun sales.
Mr. Biden said the notion that an assault weapons ban doesn’t address the main problem because many more people die from handguns each year is a bizarre argument.
“No, you are not fixing the problem,” he said. “That is like saying, does it make any sense to ban cigarette smoking while you still have global warming going on? Come on. Does that fix the environmental problem? No. But it saves some people’s lives. Do you say the fact that we took lead out of gasoline? Does that solve the problem? No. It doesn’t. We still have too many emissions going into the air. But it helps.”
A major fear of gun-rights enthusiasts, though, is that a universal background check system is a slippery slope toward an eventual national gun registry — something the administration has consistently said will not happen.
“There is a Second Amendment constitutional right to own a weapon: The right to have and bear arms,” Mr. Biden said. “When you go to registration, it raises all the black helicopter crowd notion that what this is all about is identifying who has a gun so that one day the government can get up and go to the house and arrest everyone who has a gun, and they’ll cite Nazi Germany and all that.
“There is a healthy gun culture in this country with regard to hunters,” he continued. “They husband their guns and their weapons; they lock them up, they use them responsibly, they pass them down to their children, like my dad. This is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who, constitutionally, the government is able to prohibit from owning those guns.”