Vice President Biden will meet with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a range of other groups this week as President Obama’s gun violence task force shifts into high gear.
A flurry of meetings with Biden and other Cabinet members were announced on Tuesday that will include gun-safety and sportsmen’s groups as well as Hollywood and video-game interests.
Movie studios, for example, were at press time still mulling whether to send their local representatives in Washington or corporate executives to meet with Biden.
The powerful NRA, which had warned that Obama, if reelected, would push for tighter gun laws, said it had accepted an invitation to attend a meeting.
“We are sending a rep to hear what they have to say,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.
Obama formed Biden’s task force in response to the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 27 dead, including 20 6- and 7-year-olds. Obama has described the day as the worst of his presidency.
The White House offered few details about the meetings, with a senior administration official saying it would leave it up to individual groups “to decide whether to make any comment on their attendance at those meetings.”
But Obama and the NRA would appear to be on a collision course.
The NRA responded to the Newtown killings by suggesting armed guards at schools could prevent such tragedies, a statement rebuked by Obama during an appearance last week on “Meet the Press.”
The Washington Post recently reported that the White House is weighing a broad approach on gun control that would go beyond bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips that have garnered attention in the past. The Post said the Biden group was considering universal background checks for gun buyers and a national database to track the movement and sale of weapons that would be sure to be opposed by the NRA.
The administration official said Biden would meet Wednesday with gun-safety organizations and groups representing shooting victims, and on Thursday with gun-ownership organizations and sportsmen’s groups. Attorney General Eric Holder will attend Wednesday’s meeting.
The vice president will also meet with members of the video-game and entertainment industry, which have come under scrutiny in the debate over gun violence.
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Biden will hold conference calls with elected officials from across the country as part of his effort, the White House said. Separately, Cabinet officials will hold meetings with organizations to discuss gun-violence prevention.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with education groups, parents and teachers. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with mental-health advocates. Other senior White House staff members will meet with medical groups, community organizations and advocates for children and families to discuss gun violence, the White House said.
“Soon after” the meetings, according to the White House, Biden will pass his task force’s recommendations on to Obama, who will then release a set of proposals for reducing gun violence and urge movement to enact those proposals.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said Biden’s effort was designed to “get input” from a spectrum of interests.
“As the president said, he doesn’t want to prejudge any recommendations that any stakeholder might present,” Carney said.
While Obama’s public comments suggest the focus of Biden’s task force will be on gun-control measures, he has also spoken of the need to examine mental health and the role violent entertainment has played in a series of gun massacres.
All of those issues have been at the forefront of a series of shootings that have been a grim hallmark of Obama’s years at the White House.
A lone gunman found to have a mental illness killed six people and gravely wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) two years ago Tuesday at a “meet the lawmaker” event in Tucson.
Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, on Tuesday announced the formation of a political action committee aimed at reducing gun violence.
Over the summer, another lone gunman, James Holmes, killed 12 people at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater playing the latest Batman movie.
In court this week, a federal agent testified that Holmes legally bought nearly 6,300 rounds of ammunition, two Glock .40-caliber pistols, a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle and a 12-guage shotgun, according to a report from ABC News.
Questions about Newtown killer Adam Lanza’s mental state have also been raised, though much about his background remains unclear. Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic rifle that his mother had obtained legally.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Entertainment Software Association, which represents video-game makers, did not respond to requests for comment on whether they would attend the Biden meetings.
Carney said Tuesday that Biden continued to “informally brief the president on the progress” of his efforts, and plans “many more” meetings and conversations before presenting his recommendations to the president.
“The vice president at the president’s request is overseeing a process that is engaging a variety of stakeholders — organizations and individuals — to look broadly at the problem of gun violence in America, and to consider actions that could be taken at both the legislative level and elsewhere,” Carney said.
— Daniel Strauss and Amie Parnes contributed to this report.
— Updated at 8:24 p.m.