Biden: Gun measures about 'safety,' not 'control'

The vice president's event followed President Obama's announcement last week of a raft of measures aimed at reducing gun violence, including a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban, universal background checks and a limit on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. 

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Biden urged the public to get involved by finding one of the administration's proposals to agree with, and to "write your congressman."

"I don't care which side of the issue you're on. Pick those things that you think can have a positive impact," he said. "This town [Washington] listens when people rise up and speak."

Biden's Google Plus Hangout featured four participants, including several new-media experts apparently chosen in part for their experience with the technology. They asked questions chosen by PBS NewsHour Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan. Questions were not shared with Biden in advance, according to Sreenivasan.

The video chat started on a light note, with Biden joking "I wish I had your hair" to the spiky-haired Phil DeFranco, a popular YouTube video blogger.

Biden walked a fine line in the live video, at once affirming the rights of gun owners while also urging the increased restrictions on guns proposed by the White House last week.

Just as the average citizen cannot buy a tank or an automatic weapon, Biden said, "there should be rational limits on the type of weapon I can own."

Biden has been at the forefront of the administration's response to gun violence, following a series of mass shootings last year. 

The proposals announced by Obama and Biden last week were developed during a series of meetings Biden held with stakeholders, including gun owners, the National Rifle Association (NRA), educators, physicians and the entertainment industry.

Obama approved 23 directives that would, among other things, fund more research into gun violence; direct federal agencies to contribute information to the federal background check system; and reallocate funding for schools to hire police and mental health professionals.

Biden's first question in the chat addressed the effectiveness of banning assault weapons when only a small percentage of gun-related deaths in the country are attributed to assault weapons.

"It is not an answer to all the problems, but it's a rational — in my opinion, rational — limitation," Biden said. 

He defended the White House proposals as a good start, even if they might not completely solve every gun-related problem or immediately get all dangerous weapons off the street. 

He also made a strong pitch for the type of research the White House wants to fund, for example into video game violence, as important to finding out whether there is a "pathology of gun violence."

"We shouldn't be afraid of the facts," Biden said.

Kimberley Blaine, a mental health professional from Los Angeles, asked whether the White House is recommending putting armed guards in schools. The NRA, in its own response to gun violence, has called for armed guards in every school.

"We are not calling for armed guards in schools" or arming school teachers, Biden said. He explained that the White House is pushing for a flexible spending plan so individual school districts can decide whether a "school resource officer," essentially a specially trained police officer, or a psychiatrist, for example, would best suit their school's needs.

"The first and most important thing is to engage in trying to come up with ways to prevent children who are at risk from falling into a circumstance where whatever mental problems they may have, whatever emotional problems they have, before they metastasize into behavior that is antisocial," he said. 

The Obama administration wants to fund training for education professionals called Project Aware to teach teachers "to identify aberrant behavior."

Biden will continue his push to address gun violence on Friday, traveling to Richmond, Va., for a press conference with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jim Cole, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) for what the White House is calling a "roundtable discussion" about the administration's plan to prevent gun violence.