Biden in Google hangout: It’s gun safety, not gun control

January 24, 2013

Vice President Biden on Thursday continued to make the case for the Obama administration’s new gun control agenda, imploring participants in a Google “fireside hangout” to reach out to their members of Congress on the issue.

“Write your congressman. For or against, write your congressman,” Biden said during the online conversation, which comes as Democratic members are reintroducing an assault-weapons ban on Capitol Hill. Biden was joined at Thursday’s chat by moderator Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour, video blogger Philip DeFranco and Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple chief evangelist who has written a book on Google+.

Asked about the renewed push for an assault weapons ban, Biden acknowledged that the “vast majority” of deaths due to gun violence do not involve the use of such weapons.

But he framed the issue as a question of whether assault weapons have any “real utility” for gun users, arguing that fewer police officers were killed by such weapons while the previous ban was intact than after it expired.

“Police organizations overwhelmingly support (an assault weapons ban), because they get outgunned,” Biden said. “They are outgunned on the street by the bad guys and the proliferation of these weapons.”

He invoked the mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo., as examples of why high-capacity magazines should be banned.

“When the guy had to swap out a new magazine, he fumbled,” he said of the Tucson shooting at a constituent event for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), arguing that if alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner had had a high-capacity magazine, “all of them would have been dead.”

Biden also said of the broader issue of gun violence: “I don’t view it as gun control. I view it as gun safety."

At one point, on the issue of armed officers in schools, Biden said: “We are not calling for armed guards in schools.” He added: “The last thing we need to do is be arming schoolteachers and administrators.”

On the administration’s broader gun policy agenda, the vice president pushed back on the argument that it should be dropped because it would not prevent every instance of gun violence.

“I don’t buy the logic of that,” Biden said. He later added that he interprets the Second Amendment as the “individual right to own a weapon for recreation, for hunting and also for your self protection,” and that as a gun owner he personally believes that there ought to be “rational limits on the type of weapon I can own.”

He urged for federal laws against gun trafficking and straw purchasers, as well as for the tighter enforcement of existing gun laws and for increased funding for mental health initiatives and research on gun violence.

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