The Associated Press/The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday heard personal stories of gun violence from representatives of victims groups and gun-safety organizations as he drafts the Obama administration's response to the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. He pledged that action would be taken.
"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion (that) unless we can do everything we're going to do nothing," Biden said. "It's critically important (that) we act."
The meeting was part of a series Biden is holding this week to build consensus around proposals to curb gun violence after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Twenty school children were killed.
The Huffington Post has obtained additional details about the meeting from a White House Pool Report. Biden, according to the report, explained that "the president IS going to act." The White House has determined that "executive action can be taken," stated the Vice President. The specifics of that action have not yet been settled.
Biden meets Thursday with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups. Meetings with representatives of the video-game and entertainment industries also are planned.
President Barack Obama wants Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of the month. Obama has vowed to move swiftly on the package, which is expected to include legislative proposals and executive action.
Participants in Wednesday's meeting with Biden included the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and groups from Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin, states with spates of gun violence that garnered national attention, including the shooting in Arizona of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Also present were two survivors of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people, as well as a stepfather of a victim of last July's massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which a dozen people were slain. Attorney General Eric Holder also attended.
But as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown, Conn., shooting fades, the tough fight facing the White House and gun-control backers is growing clearer. Gun-rights advocates, including the powerful NRA, are digging in against tighter gun restrictions, conservative groups are launching pro-gun initiatives and the Senate's top Republican has warned it could be spring before Congress begins considering any gun legislation.
"The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said this week. "That's going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March. None of these issues will have the kind of priority as spending and debt over the next two or three months."
The killing of 6- and 7-year-olds at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School appeared to stir a deep reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill. Obama pushed gun control to the top of his domestic agenda for the first time and pledged to put the full weight of his presidency behind the issue. Some Republican and conservative lawmakers with strong gun-rights records also took the extraordinary step of calling for a discussion on new measures.
But other gun-rights advocates have shown less flexibility. The NRA has rejected stricter gun legislation and suggested instead that the government put armed guards in every U.S. school as a way to curb violence. A coalition of conservative groups is also organizing a "Gun Appreciation Day" to coincide with Obama's inauguration this month.
The president hopes to announce his administration's next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21.
Obama wants Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skirt background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines. Other recommendations to the Biden group include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.
Some of those steps could be taken through executive action, without the approval of Congress. White House officials say Obama will not finalize any actions until receiving Biden's recommendations.
Gun-rights lawmakers and outside groups have insisted that any policy response also include an examination of mental health policies and the impact of violent movies and video games. To those people, the White House has pledged a comprehensive response.
"It is not a problem that can be solved by any specific action or single action that the government might take," said White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "It's a problem that encompasses issues of mental health, of education, as well as access to guns."
In addition to Biden's meetings this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with parent and teacher groups, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with mental health and disability advocates.
The White House said other meetings are also scheduled with community organizations, business owners and religious leaders.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
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Also on HuffPost:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."