Biden: Public ‘far ahead’ of Congress on gun control debate

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Vice President Biden said outrage over the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School had moved the public “far ahead” of lawmakers on gun violence, as the Senate prepares to vote on opening debate on a gun control bill.

“This is one of the cases where the public is so far ahead of the elected officials,” said Biden during a roundtable discussion with advocates and opponents of gun control, aired Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “You saw it in immigration. You saw it in marriage issues. You're seeing it now. The public has moved to a different place.”

Biden’s comments come as the Senate is set to vote to move forward on gun control legislation on Thursday.

Republicans had threatened to filibuster the measure, but Democrats believe they will have the 60 votes to open debate after Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday unveiled a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks in the legislation.

Toomey’s involvement could help bring GOP support amid Republican concerns that heightened background checks could lead to a federal database of gun owners and infringe on the ability of family members to hand down firearms.

Biden in the interview insisted “there is no national registry,” and that none of the provisions in the Senate bill would establish one.

Biden said even under the current background check system in gun stores, the government received limited information about the potential purchaser and that information about background checks was not stored.

“They don’t say what kind of gun you’re buying, they don’t say where you’re going, they don’t say what it is, what the transaction is,” Biden said. “When you are denied they don’t say ‘you were denied because of mental health’ -- nothing.”

“There is no place in the federal government where you can go, not a single place, and find out everybody who owns guns,” he added.

The vice president also expressed support for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, two measures not included in the Senate gun bill, but which could move forward as amendments. 

“Certain weapons of war just don’t belong in the street,” Biden said.

He also said that there would have been fewer victims in the Newtown massacre if the shooter had been forced to stop firing and attempt to reload.

“If there had only been ten bullets in each clip, he would’ve had to change the clip an additional three to five times. One of those kids would be alive, somebody would be alive,” he said.

The White House has launched a public campaign to rally support for the Senate gun bill ahead of Thursday’s vote. 

President Obama spoke in Connecticut on Monday, joined by families who lost children in the Newtown shooting. And first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday delivered an impassioned speech on gun violence in Chicago, choking up as she discussed attending the funeral of a teenager who was shot and killed.

But the gun control bill still faces a long path, with gun-rights groups scoring senators on the background check deal and the final cloture vote. 

On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also declined to commit the House to voting on a gun control bill, saying only that lawmakers would “review” any legislation passed by the House.

“We’re going to wait and see what actually passes over in the Senate,” said Boehner.