WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Senate Democrats to move forward with gun control legislation, insisting the political climate has changed since last month's Newtown, Conn. shootings and the public expects Congress to act.
Emerging from a meeting with Senate Democrats that lasted for more than an hour, Biden told reporters that his message to them was simple: There are actions you can take to reduce gun violence that don't infringe on people's Second Amendment rights.
"There are things that we can do ... that have virtually zero impact on your Second Amendment right to own a weapon, for both self-defense and recreation, that can save some lives," Biden said. "This is not a difficult equation. If I can prove that there is no constitutional impact on your right to bear arms, and the action I'm suggesting can in fact demonstrably show some people could be saved, then it seems to be a no-brainer to me."
Biden didn't single out specific proposals in President Barack Obama's gun violence package; instead, he expressed support for the entire package and made the case that now is the time to get something passed. Citing his decades of experience working on gun-related issues on Capitol Hill, he noted how key groups -- namely religious groups and sheriff's organizations -- have "moved more in the direction of realizing we need to do something on gun safety" in recent times, particularly since the Sandy Hook massacre.
"The visual image of those 20 innocent children being riddled with bullets has absolutely not only traumatized the nation but it has caused the straw that broke the camel's back," Biden said. "I'm not saying there's absolute consensus on all these things. But there is a sea change in attitudes of the American people, and I believe that the American people will not understand ... if we don't act."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the vice president told the group that he planned to do "extensive traveling" around the country to build public support for gun violence legislation, and he told senators he looked forward to working with them in their respective states. While he didn't suggest that lawmakers abandon proposals with next to no chance of passing Congress, such as the assault weapons ban, Boxer said he pointed to a couple of items that have broad support.
"He did say that background checks and high-capacity magazines, if you look at the polling on that, it's just huge. Even among NRA members," she said. "But I can't say that he said, 'Do this and don't do that.'"
Biden may have told senators that momentum is on the side of gun control advocates, but his comments stood in stark contrast to the message conveyed by NRA president David Keene just hours earlier. During a roundtable with reporters, Keene dismissed the idea that there is anything new about the current gun debate and predicted no new gun laws would come of it.