Vice president urges background checks at gun-control forum

Vice President Biden met privately in Richmond, Va., Friday with officials who coordinated the response to the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the vice president's first public trip in support of President Obama's gun-control proposals.

The vice president said the discussions focused primarily on improving mental health screenings and a call for universal background checks, two proposals Obama has urged Congress to adopt in the aftermath of the Newton, Conn. elementary school shootings. 

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According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Biden also stressed that "fact-based research" was needed to determine the role violent media played in gun violence. As part of the series of so-called "executive actions" signed by the president last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was allocated $10 million for the study of violence in video games and film.

But, according to Talking Points Memo, Biden did not mention the most controversial aspect of the president's plan: a renewed assault weapons ban that would specifically outlaw semi-automatic weapons with military characteristics. On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would ban the future sale or manufacture of such weapons, although she admitted at the announcement the bill faced an "uphill" climb.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney denied that Biden's omission of the assault weapons ban could be read as an indication the administration was backing off the most controversial of its proposals.

"No," Carney said. "The president supports renewal of the assault weapons ban. He supports addressing or limiting the capacity of ammunition clips."

Carney describe Biden's trip as "part of the effort for making the case to take common sense steps to end gun violence."

In Richmond, Biden suggested that the stop was the first of many to rally support for the president's plan.

"We're going to continue to go around the country," Biden said, according to TPM.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who was the state's governor during the Virginia Tech shootings that left 32 people and the shooter dead, said the state carried the "scar tissue" — and lessons — of that tragedy. He noted Virginia had taken steps to improve background checks in the shooting's aftermath.


"Our experience in Virginia proves there are things we can do that work," said Kaine. "We don't have to despair about being able to reduce gun violence. The better background record check system you have, the safer you are. It's a way of enforcing existing law and keeping guns out of the hands of people who aren't lawfully allowed to have them."