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US Vice President Joe Biden speaks alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (L) as he meets with representatives of victims’ groups and gun safety organizations at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2013. The meeting comes as US President Barack Obama's administration works to develop gun policy proposals following last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Tasked with crafting new gun legislation in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, Vice President Joe Biden has wasted no time in rolling up his sleeves and getting down to business. He’s launched a series of meetings with gun safety advocates and victims’ groups, and is also giving a seat at the table to gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association and retailers, such as Walmart, who have a substantial stake in the approximately $8-10 million annual firearms business. Representatives of mental health organizations and the entertainment and videogame industries are likely to be included as well. Will this all-embracing approach to the conversation lead to consensus, if not workable legislation, by the end of the month deadline? Hill watchers aren’t optimistic.
There are other pressing issues for Congress to address – a little something called the fiscal cliff, for instance – that are bound to take precedence. And if responses to Sandy Hook are any indication, it’s unlikely that common ground on gun control can be found between the White House and the NRA. Biden is determined to take urgent action, however, and this round of meetings is just the first step.
When writing new gun laws, what should the focus be – banning military assault weapons? Tighter background checks? Limits on ammunition sales? Or should the commission concentrate on addressing mental health issues or curbing Hollywood and videogame violence? Now that Obama has entered his second term, does he really have nothing to fear from the powerful NRA by cracking down on gun ownership? Can effective change be enacted that ensures both the safety, and the personal liberty, of all citizens? How would you craft the next series of gun laws?
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, covering national and international politics. Click here for his column.