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."