Philadelphia — Only hours after a gunman opened fire on a courthouse in his home state, Vice-President Joe Biden held a roundtable table discussion with local law enforcement officials to discuss gun safety on Monday.
Biden was joined by police commissioners and several statewide Democratic figures including Senator Bob Casey, congressional Democrats Allyson Schwartz (D-Montgomery), Bob Brady (D-Phila) and Chaka Fattah (D-Phila), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philly Police Chief Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
Biden sought to boost support and credibility for the administration’s newly proposed gun control measures on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union Address – a topic that promises to be a major focal point of the speech. The Vice President has spent the past two months meeting with various officials (Biden says over 230 different groups) around the country discussing gun control.
Proposals include a new ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and background checks for all gun sales.
Biden, who has been Obama’s point man on the administration’s new gun control agenda said there was a “clear consensus” in support regarding the new proposed policies.
“There is a sense of urgency for the United States of America, the federal government and local governments to act. There is no conflict-none, zero–of any of those things that were suggested here today with the Second Amendment,” Biden said.
The Independence Hall Tea Party Association and the Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County announced their opposition to the Vice-President’s visit and his agenda.
“We support the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and oppose any further restrictions on the types of firearms and magazines that law abiding citizens can own,” said Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County spokesman Mike Tilley in a press release.
Tilley added, “The Obama Administration’s push for gun control legislation is a pretext for a total ban on guns and will do absolutely nothing to make schools a safe haven for our nation’s children.”
Biden countered that the claim that the Administration was trying to take away guns from law-abiding citizens was “a bunch of malarkey,” and continued by telling the audience that “We’re counting on all of you, the legitimate news media, to cover these discussions.”
The Vice President additionally promised to take the administration’s fight all across the country.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Biden said. “The one thing I want to make clear is this is, this message of rational gun safety is a message that will be embraced by rural communities as well as urban communities simply because it makes sense. But we cannot wait. The still voices of those children require us, requires us to speak now.”
While the discussion remained serious, when the Vice-President was prompted with a question about the Pope’s resignation, he quipped with a wide grin, “I am not running.”
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Delegation
The discussion over new gun legislation has been significantly amplified in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Since then, Congressional Democrats have renewed their cries for stronger gun regulations and have gained new allies in the process.
Senator Casey, who until recently reversed his opposition to an assault weapons ban, recently had an “A” rating from the NRA, avoided discussing specific gun control measures. Instead, Casey called for increased funding for programs like the Byrne JAG program, the Bulletproof Vest Program and the COPS program.
“The one thing we know the Federal Government can do is support laws already on the books,” Casey reiterated.
When pressed, Casey said that he would support an assault weapons ban but added that it is possible to “Take common sense steps without taking away weapons.”
Poised for a potential 2014 Gubernatorial run, Allyson Schwartz pleaded, “There’s got to be more we can do…Americans want us to take action and it’s time we do something.”
“That’s pretty accurate,” she later said of buzz that she was 80% in to the Governor’s race.
The Congresswoman’s appeal was echoed by Chaka Fattah who stressed that “We need to go as far as we can to save lives.”
Police Chief Commissioner Charles Ramsey localized the issue.
“We have our versions of Sandy Hook and Columbine on the streets everyday. The status quo is not acceptable,” said Ramsey.
Mayor Nutter continued by calling on the public to increase their support for new gun control measures, nationally and on a statewide level.
A recent F&M poll found that 58% of Pennsylvanians strongly or somewhat favor increased gun control legislation, a number which is within normal range of support for the previous 15 years. Specific measures found stronger support which included universal and mandatory background checks (94%), a ban on high capacity magazines (61%) and a ban on “assault weapons” (61%).