The setting was the same, but the political dynamics far different than they were five months ago when Biden and President Obama used the same auditorium to propose the most expansive overhaul of the nation’s gun laws in generations. They hoped to prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and to require that every gun buyer undergo a background check.
But with their agenda blocked on Capitol Hill, Biden acknowledged that the progress report on the administration’s actions — he said 21 of 23 executive actions rolled out in January have been nearly completed — would not be enough to make serious headway in the fight against gun violence.
“As proud as the president and I am of progress we’ve made, we need Congress to act,” Biden said, speaking to an audience that included Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “We need everyone in the country to know the fight is not over. Far from it. . . . I assure you one thing each of us says to our colleagues about the votes: ‘The country has changed. You will pay a political price for not getting engaged and dealing with gun safety.’ ”
Gun-control advocates described the administrative actions as baby steps that would do relatively little to prevent the next mass shooting.
“What can be accomplished through executive action is real and necessary, but not sufficient,” said Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
“If all that comes out of this once-in-a-generation debate is teaching kids how to duck and cover during a mass shooting, some members of Congress are going to have a lot to explain when it happens. And it will happen,” added Glaze, whose group is financed and led by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I).
In the weeks since the Senate blocked the administration’s gun proposals in mid-April — including a background-check compromise that polls showed 90 percent of Americans supported — Obama and Biden have rarely mentioned gun violence.
With his speech Tuesday, though, Biden renewed the call for universal background checks and reminded the public that gun control remains on the administration’s agenda despite the defeat.
“Because of the invocation of a rule, a perverted filibuster rule requiring 60 votes for everything, we lost,” Biden said of the Senate vote on universal background checks. Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December, he said, “more people have died at the end of a gun than we have lost in Afghanistan. Pretty astounding. And Iraq. That’s no way to run a country. The country knows it. They know we can do something about it.”