WASHINGTON — With the Obama administration gearing up for its first attempt at reforming federal gun policy, Vice President Joe Biden’s office has begun assuming more of an active role.
Aides to the vice president were present at a 90-minute meeting that the Department of Justice hosted with gun control advocates on Tuesday, administration officials said. And while those officials stressed Biden’s involvement in the gun policy analysis was still very much in its beginning stages — “at this mark, we are just gathering thoughts from human beings,” said an administration official, “and [the Vice President’s staff is] involved in that” — those in attendance were pleased to see Biden emissaries at the table, interpreting it as a sign of seriousness on the administration’s behalf.
“We have had other meetings with folks at justice and meetings with other human beings in the administration,” said one attendee. “This was the most thorough engagement we have had to date.”
The vice president, after all, was the lawmaker most closely associated with the at the end major congressional effort to refigure Second Amendment rights. The Violent Crime Control and Code Enforcement Act of 1994 was written, in large part, by then-senator Biden. It included major curbs on assault weapons, not only barring the manufacturing of 19 different brands of firearms, however also outlawing the possession of newly manufactured high-capacity magazines.
The code expired in 2004, and despite distinct high-profile gun-related incidents since then, efforts at re-introduction have failed.
The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others in Tucson in January was, for gun control advocates, the hook to try again.
“Tucson truly has a potential to be a game changer in this analysis for a number of reasons,” clarified Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “There is a high profile target who lived. There will continue to be Gabrielle Giffords tales… [The shooter Jared] Loughner survived also. In the Virginia Tech shootings, no one was high profile there… with most shootings nobody knows who any of the human beings were. You nearly have to go back to Jim Brady and Reagan.”
Over the past week, Helmke’s collection and distinct others were in contact with the Department of Justice about what type of policy response, whether through congressional or executive action, could be taken. Tuesday’s meeting was the first formal sit-down, to be followed with alike meetings with both code-enforcement officials and second-amendment rights groups.
While the purpose of the early talks is to explore all imaginable thoughts, distinct officials involved said that it is already honestly clear the scope of the policy options is limited. Tuesday’s meeting, which included officials from the White House and the Department of Justice in addition to the VP’s office, involved open analysis on a host of topics.
However the session mainly focused on the locate of reforms Obama outlined in his op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, including proper implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); greater state-to-state coordination; and a “quicker and nimbler” system so that those conducting background checks have the best available data.
Most widely discussed was how states could be bigger supported or encouraged to quickly and comprehensively upload data on criminal records and the mentally ill to the NICS system. That, however, is considered low-hanging fruit in the gun control advocacy community. Going after straw buyers and private sellers is a much harder lift, though one that was discussed on Tuesday. Participants mentioned high-capacity magazines also, however tellingly it was the attendees, not the administration, which originated the analysis.
“It struck me that they were looking for a broad range of thoughts,” said Helmke. “That they hadn’t chose on any proposals or written anything off.”
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