Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who has been President Obama’s point man on gun control over the past month, headed about 100 miles south on Friday with cabinet officials and lawmakers to discuss the administration’s efforts on the issue.
Mr. Biden was joined by several cabinet officials, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Kathleen Sebelius and Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, as well as mental health experts and law enforcement officials from Virginia.
Also in attendance were Sen. Tim Kaine, who was governor of the state during the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings where gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before taking his own life, and Rep. Bobby Scott, who is a vice chairman on California Rep. Mike Thompson’s congressional gun violence task force. Mr. Scott’s district includes part of Richmond, as does the district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican who has emerged as a foe of Mr. Obama’s on several occasions over the past few years, notably during the debt-ceiling debate in the summer of 2011.
After the 2007 shootings, Mr. Kaine worked with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, then the state’s attorney general, to improve the state’s background check system to make sure people adjudicated mentally ill could not obtain guns.
“Our experience in Virginia proves there are things we can do that work,” Mr. Kaine said. “We don’t have to despair about being able to reduce gun violence. The better background record check system you have, the safer you are. It’s a way of enforcing existing law and keeping guns out of the hands of people who aren’t lawfully allowed to have them.”
The trip is the first in what the Obama administration has hinted could be many trips outside of Washington to push for gun control measures and count on the public, in part, to pressure hesitant senators to act.
“Each one of us needs to speak up and demand action,” Mr. Biden wrote in an email to supporters Friday morning. “It doesn’t matter whether you live in a big city or a small town like Newtown, Connecticut. When our fellow Americans are victims of senseless violence, we all pull together as one American family.”
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the president “will travel” to make the case for second-term agenda items like immigration reform and gun control. He’s already scheduled a trip to Las Vegas on Tuesday to begin a push for immigration reform.
“[H]e believes that not only is it the right strategy to engage the American people, it is essential as a reflection of why he’s in this to begin with, to explain to them his vision and to listen to them about what their hopes are and the direction that they hope the country will move in,” Mr. Carney said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who unveiled sweeping legislation to ban miliatry-style, so-called assault weapons Thursday, said that the people of America are the ones who will need to get Republicans and hesitant Democrats on board.
“I’ve already started to talk to members; I will continue to talk to members,” the California Democrat said. “But the effective thing is whether it’s a red state or a blue state, somebody picks up the phone, calls their representative, and says, ‘I want you to vote for this.’ “
Mr. Biden, during an online Google Plus chat Thursday, said that so-called “assault” weapons were less important to him than putting restrictions on high-capacity magazines. But Mr. Carney reiterated Friday that the administration would push for both.
“The president supports renewal of the assault weapons ban,” he said. “He supports addressing or limiting the magazine capacity of ammunition — the capacity of ammunition clips. He supports — well, as you know, the legislative action that he made clear he supported even before he put forward the comprehensive set of proposals last week.”
“So these are all priorities,” he continued. “The fact that they’re hard, some harder than others, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move forward on them and make the case for them. And that’s what the vice president is doing. That’s what the president has done and will do.”
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David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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