“This is a problem that requires immediate attention,” Biden said. “I want to make clear that we’re not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing.”
The White House is considering a wide range of legislative proposals, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as universal background checks on gun buyers. Biden also said Wednesday that Obama may take executive actions that sidestep Congress, although he did not provide details.
Biden’s comments sparked an immediate and sharp backlash from Republicans. “The Founding Fathers never envisioned Executive Orders being used to restrict our Constitutional rights,” Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina said in a statement. “We live in a republic, not a dictatorship.”
Biden’s meetings with interest groups to build consensus will continue Thursday, when he will meet with representatives of the NRA and other gun-owner groups as well as a representative from Wal-Mart, one of the nation’s leading gun retailers. The NRA, which has signaled its opposition to any new gun regulations, has suggested placing armed guards at all of the nation’s schools in reaction to the Connecticut shootings.
Earlier this week, senior White House aides organized a conference call with a roster of private foundations, some of which are funding polls, public education campaigns and other anti-gun-violence initiatives.
One of the groups was the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, a major funder of gun-control programs that counted Obama as a board member from 1994 to 2002. Program director Nina Vinik said research suggests that the public is poorly informed about current gun laws.
“Most people assume that our gun laws are in fact much more expansive and stronger than in fact they are,” Vinik said.