WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden teamed up with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday to give another push to Congress to do something about gun violence, challenging lawmakers to show some courage on an issue that has broad public support.
"The American people could not be any clearer about where they stand," Bloomberg said at a press event, surrounded by families impacted by the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
"There's no real debate" in the public over tightening background checks on gun sales, Bloomberg said, citing recent polls putting public support at nearly 90 percent. "The only question is whether Congress will have the courage to do the right thing."
Biden, who has been leading the charge to pass President Barack Obama's package of gun control measures, dismissed the idea that the gun lobby is powerful enough to prevent "common sense" measures from passing.
"I was told in 1992 ... that there's no way, you can never beat the gun lobby, it's not possible. Well in 1994, we did," Biden said, referring to the passage of his 1994 crime bill that included a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. That ban expired in 2004.
The provisions in that bill "worked," he said, and "they all had a positive impact on public safety."
The current climate in Congress is iffy on gun-related measures. The legislative calculus is to see what can first pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and from there, push to find House Republican support for those proposals. As it stands, some of the Senate bills have bipartisan support and some don't.
Biden emphasized that none of the gun bills being considered in Congress would infringe on people's Second Amendment rights -- "no less than Justice Scalia in the last decision acknowledged that the government has a right to limit certain weapons" -- and questioned how anyone could say the politics are too hard to do something about the spate of gun massacres around the country.
"For all those who said we shouldn't or couldn't ban high-capacity magazines, I just ask them one question: Think about Newtown," Biden said. "Think about how many of these children or teachers may be alive today had [the shooter] had to reload three times as many times as he did ... Tell me how it violates anyone's constitutional right to be limited to a clip that holds 10 rounds instead of 30."
Bloomberg and Biden's call for action comes as the Senate inches closer to voting on a package of gun bills that includes expanded background checks, a new gun trafficking statute and school-safety funds. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided earlier this week that the most contentious piece, a proposed ban on assault weapons, won't be included in the gun package, but instead will get a vote as an amendment. The move angered some gun control advocates, but it reflects the reality that an assault weapons ban doesn't have anywhere near the votes to pass.
Bloomberg, an independent, said Thursday that even though the assault weapons ban won't be part of the gun package, it will still get a vote by the full Senate as an amendment -- and voters will be watching.
"Everyone’s going to have to stand up and say 'yea' or 'nay,'" said Bloomberg, urging people to call their senators ahead of time and say, "'If you stand up and try to prevent [a gun massacre] from happening again, I will support you. If you do not, I will support whoever runs against you, no matter who they are or what party they are.'"
"Congress just has to get some courage," he added. "It is up to us as Americans, and as fellow human beings, to sort of give them that courage."
Also on HuffPost:
Funds For First Responders
The Obama administration will call on Congress to provide additional funding to train public and private personnel at schools to respond to active shooter situations.
Invest In School Safety Strategies
The Obama administration, through executive action, encourages school districts to use Comprehensive School Safety Grants to purchase school safety equipment, develop and update public safety plans, conduct threat assessments and train "crisis intervention teams" of law enforcement officers to work with the mental health community while responding and assisting students in crisis.
Money For Safer & Nurturing School Climates
The Obama administration cites that with technical assistance from the Department of Education, 18,000 schools have already put evidence-based strategies to improve school climate into action. Through executive action, the administration proposes a new $50 million initiative to help 8,000 more schools train teachers and staff to implement these strategies.
Resources For Youth Who Witness Violence
To help schools break the cycle of violence, the administration will urge Congress to provide $25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma or anxiety, conflict resolution programs and other school-based violence prevention initiatives.
Incentives For Schools To Hire Resource Officers
Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Justice will provide an incentive for police departments that hire officers through COPS Hiring Grants by providing a preference for grant applications that support school resource officers.
Close Background Check Loopholes
The Department of Justice will invest $20 million in FY2013 to give states stronger incentives to share information with the background check system. President Obama signed executive action requiring federal agencies to make crucial records available to the background check system and also to ensure that such records are frequently updated.
Boost Gun Owner Accountability & Responsibility
President Obama signed an executive action reaffirming his respect for the Second Amendment, but acknowledging that the right to bear arms comes with a responsibility to safely store guns to prevent them from being accidentally or intentionally used to harm others.
Serious Punishment For Gun Trafficking
Today, guns can be purchased easily from unlicensed dealers or from "straw purchasers" who pass the required background check, but give the guns to criminals. The Obama administration will include an explicit law against straw purchasing and others who traffic guns, including prosecutions for paperwork violations.
15,000 Cops On The Street
The Obama administration recognizes that it is crucial to keep more officers within communities and neighborhoods in order to prevent gun violence. The president calls on Congress to put forth a $4 billion proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the streets across the country.
Assault Weapons Ban
The federal assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004 was a first step, but President Obama acknowledged that manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons. Obama is pressing Congress to introduce legislation reinstating and expanding the ban to include all assault weapons.
High-Capacity Magazine Ban
President Obama will urge Congress to reinstate the prohibition on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Oak Creek, Wis. and Newtown, Conn. all used magazines that had a capacity of more than 10 rounds, which come standard with many handguns and rifles.
Remove ATF Restrictions
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is required to authorize the importation of dangerous antique weapons that are at least 50 years old. Obama will press Congress to remove restrictions and enable the ATF to ensure that incoming weapons are actually acquired as collectibles and not for putting the weapons in the wrong hands.
Broader Access To Reports On Lost & Stolen Guns
Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Justice plans to publish an annual report on lost and stolen guns to ensure data collected by the ATF is available.
Protect Doctors Who Talk About Guns
Some have erroneously claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking patients about guns and gun safety. According to Obama's executive action, the administration will issue guidance clarifying this misconception and reiterating the importance of protecting doctors who have discussions on safe storage of firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses, have young children or have a mentally ill family member at home.
Promote Responsible Gun Ownership
As declared by Obama's executive action, the administration will encourage gun owners to take responsibility for keeping their guns safe through a national campaign promoting common-sense gun safety measures.
Enhance Gun Tracing Data
Law enforcement can trace a gun's path from it's manufacturer, the dealer who sold it and its first purchaser. However, not all federal law enforcement agencies require a trace on guns they recover and keep in custody. President Obama signed executive action requiring a trace on <em>all</em> firearms.
Promote Safe Gun Safety Technology
The president is directing the attorney general through executive action to work with technology experts to review emerging gun safety technology that helps guard against unauthorized access and use.
$150 Million For In-School Resources
The Obama administration is urging Congress to take up a Comprehensive School Safety program that will offer $150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire resource officers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors. The Department of Justice will also develop a model for schools that use resource officers, including age-appropriate methods for working with students.
Change School Discipline Practices
Students who are suspended or expelled are far more likely to repeat a grade, not graduate or become involved in the juvenile justice system. The Obama administration believes effective school discipline policies are critical to addressing school and community crime and violence issues. Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Education will collect and execute best practices on school discipline policies and help schools implement these policies.
Mental Health Treatment For Youth
Through partnerships such as the newly proposed Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), President Obama is urging Congress to take up a comprehensive plan to reach 750,000 young people through programs for early detection of mental illness and swift treatment. Project AWARE includes $15 million for training teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness.
Clarify Mental Health Coverage In Private Insurance Plans
By executive action, Obama announced a plan to finalize regulations that would require group health plans offering mental health care to cover such services at parity under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act requires all new small group and individual plans to cover mental health and substance abuse services.
Mental Health Coverage For Medicaid Recipients
There is some evidence that Medicaid plans do not always meeting mental health parity requirements. In an executive action, the Obama administration issued a letter to state health officials insisting that these plans must comply with mental health parity requirements.