Biden to head gun policy push after Newtown shootings

Vice President Joe Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead an effort to craft policies to reduce gun violence in a plan President Barack Obama was to lay out Wednesday amid calls for action after the massacre of 26 people including 20 children in a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama was not expected to unveil policy decisions but outline how his administration will proceed, White House aides said. The move could signal that he will make the issue a second-term priority and add momentum to a national debate over tighter gun control laws.

Obama has turned to Biden in the past to take a role in high-profile initiatives, including efforts on a deficit-reduction compromise with congressional Republicans in 2011. The vice president will join Obama for the announcement in the White House briefing room at 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT).

Biden’s mission – to coordinate a strategy among government agencies in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings – comes days after the mass murder that has generated a national outcry for greater efforts to stem gun violence.

Friday’s massacre was the fourth shooting rampage to claim multiple lives in the United States this year.

The president demanded changes to the way the United States deals with gun violence at a memorial service in Newtown on Sunday. Obama said he would “use whatever power this office” holds to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Gun control has been a low priority for most U.S. politicians due to the widespread popularity of guns in America and the clout of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun industry lobby.

The constitutional right to bear arms is seen by many Americans as set in stone, and even after mass shootings, politicians have tiptoed around specific steps to limit access to lethal weapons.

Even so, the horror of the Newtown killings, in which a 20-year-old man killed 6- and 7-year-old children and their teachers in their classrooms before taking his own life, has provoked an apparent change of heart in some politicians.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a longtime gun rights advocate, said he is now open to more regulation of military-style rifles like the one used in Newtown. Obama spoke with him on Tuesday, the White House said.

The White House spelled out some gun control measures on Tuesday that Obama would support.

Spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would back U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s effort to reinstate an assault weapons ban. The president also would favor any law to close a loophole related to gun-show sales, he said.

Efforts to limit high-capacity gun ammunition clips would be another option, Carney said.


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