Stanek said the meeting also included significant discussion of mental-health issues, violence in video games and movies, and the poor quality of information contained in databases used to conduct criminal background checks before issuing gun permits.
Some of the options the administration is considering may not ultimately be included in Obama’s package. A White House spokesman said Biden’s group was in the midst of its review and has made no decisions on its final recommendations.
The White House is also developing strategies to navigate the rocky and emotionally fraught terrain of gun politics once final policy decisions are made. The administration is quietly talking with a diverse array of interest groups, including religious leaders, mental-health professionals and hunters, to build as broad a coalition as possible, those involved in the discussions said.
The president is expected to face fierce opposition from the NRA and its allies in Congress, including most Republicans and some Democrats.
But Biden signaled to those involved in the policy discussions that the White House is not afraid of taking on the NRA, the nation’s largest gun rights group. At the Dec. 20 meeting, according to Stanek, when one law enforcement leader suggested focusing on only the most popular proposals, Biden responded: “Look, what I’m asking you for is your candid opinion and ideas about extreme gun violence. Leave the politics to the president. That’s our job with Congress.”
NRA officials declined a request for comment. In response to the shooting in Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, the group’s executive vice president, called for installing armed police officers in every school.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said at a news conference Dec. 21.
One potential strategy would be to win support for specific measures from interest groups that are normally aligned with the NRA, according to one person who works closely with the administration on gun-related issues and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
For instance, this person suggested, Wal-Mart and other major gun retailers may have an incentive to support closing a loophole that allows people to bypass background checks if they purchase firearms at gun shows or through other types of private sales. That could result in more people buying guns in retail stores.
Timing is imperative
Obama’s advisers have calculated that the longer they wait, the more distance there is from the Newtown massacre and the greater the risk that the bipartisan political will to tackle gun violence will dissipate.