Vice President Joe Biden will meet with National Rifle Association representatives this week as his task force on guns increases its efforts, reports the Hill.
The White House announced that after meeting with gun safety and shooting victim advocacy groups on Wednesday, Biden will meet with firearms ownership organizations and recreational/sport gun users Thursday. “We are sending a rep to hear what they have to say,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.
Biden’s task force was formed by order of the president following an armed attack on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 schoolchildren and 6 teachers were slain by gunman Adam Lanza. Lanza used three semi-automatic weapons legally owned by his mother in the assault, including a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle.
Responses to the shootings have been varied. California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) has proposed renewing a stricter version of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which expired in September 2004, including banning over 120 specifically named firearms. (Lanza’s XM15 rifle is on that list.) The NRA suggested putting armed guards in schools and that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” According to the Washington Post, President Obama is considering a broader approach involving mandatory background checks for all weapons purchases, a national database capable of tracking the sale and movement of weapons, and increased ATF funding.
Biden will pass on the task force’s recommendations to the president “soon after” the meetings, according to the White House. Obama will then use that information to release a set of proposals for reducing gun violence.
Separate Cabinet officials will also conduct their own meetings to discuss gun violence prevention. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with educational advocacy groups, including parents and teachers, while Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is poised to meet with mental health experts. Other White House staffers will meet with policy experts, medical groups, children’s advocates and victims’ families.
White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized Tuesday that the administration “doesn’t want to prejudge any recommendations that any stakeholders would present,” that the White House is specifically reaching out to “gun owners and groups that represent gun owners,” and that the meetings are “designed to get input” – a clear signal that the president wants the NRA and other gun groups to propose their own recommendations for preventing gun violence in a neutral setting.
Townhall columnist Katie Pavlich points out that the NRA’s acceptance is “notable,” given that just last year NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said “why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment…?”