Obama Appoints Biden to Head Panel to Recommend Gun Control Laws

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President Obama yesterday proved that he wasn’t just spewing rhetoric when he said the country needed to take decisive action on gun control, as he held a news conference at the White House to announce the creation of a panel led by Vice President Joe Biden that would be tasked with coming up with recommendations and legislation by January, a dizzying deadline.

With his comments, Obama made it clear the kind of laws he expects to get through Congress early next year.

“A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons,” the president said. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.”

While many Americans called for lawmakers to actually do something in the wake of the Newtown shootings that killed 20 kids, there was a resignation in the air, as a public so often disappointed by the cowardice of elected officials on this issue expected much of the same. But the president, with Vice President Biden standing at his side, was adamant that this time would be different.

It is perhaps the first indication of how differently presidents can behave in their second terms, when they no longer have to think about reelection.

Already Biden had a meeting scheduled today with law enforcement officials from around the nation. With a deadline of just a few weeks to put together major reform, there is no time to waste. Biden was a key figure in the Senate in the passage of the assault weapons ban in 1994, during the Clinton administration, so he’s a natural to be the lead on this issue.

The Biden panel will have several priorities. In addition to finding sensible ways to restrict the sale of so-called assault weapons, they will also be focusing on the ways to increase mental health resources and consider steps to keep society from glamorizing guns and violence. That last one may prove especially challenging, requiring cooperation from so many sectors, from Hollywood to video game makers to the news media.

The president hopes to send legislation to Congress in January. He’s already said he wants to reinstate the ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and restrict high-capacity ammunition clips.

“This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside,” Obama said at the Wednesday news conference.

Meanwhile Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, wants more guns available to Americans, believing that the Newtown tragedy would not have occurred if the principal had her own gun.

Even though all states allow concealed carry, “we have laws that say not in schools,” Pratt said. “And so in the very places that have been sought out by monsters such as the murderer of these adults and children, we’re saying, no, we don’t want you to be able to defend yourself. It’s better that you just sit there and wait to be killed. And we find that morally incomprehensible.”
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said if more guns had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School, most victims would be alive.

Even though all states allow concealed carry, “we have laws that say not in schools,” Pratt said. “And so in the very places that have been sought out by monsters such as the murderer of these adults and children, we’re saying, no, we don’t want you to be able to defend yourself. It’s better that you just sit there and wait to be killed. And we find that morally incomprehensible.”

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