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Obama appoints Biden to take charge on gun control

Obama appoints Biden to take charge on gun control
US President Barack Obama has chosen Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time gun control advocate, to lead an initiative to tackle gun violence on a policy level, which might involve reinstating an updated version of a ban on assault weapons.

The president promised to use “whatever power this office holds” to protect America’s children after last Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., which might mean reinstating a ban on assault weapons.

“The discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the gun violence that plagues this country every single day,”

Obama said in a speech about gun violence on Wednesday.

“And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been able to challenge old assumptions and to change their long-standing positions. That conversation has to continue, but this time the words need to lead to action.”

Obama announced that Biden will lead the effort to come up with a proposal for a solution by January, since the issue of gun violence is urgent. Citing shootings that occurred after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the president said Americans die every day as a result of gun violence. More than 10,000 die at the end of a firearm in the US each year.

“I’ve asked the vice president to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals – no later than January – proposals that I then intend to push without delay,”

he said. 

While the president’s time is consumed with preventing the fiscal cliff, the vice president will head gun control policy talks and initiatives that the president will then advocate for in 2013. 

After 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza massacred 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School with an assault rifle, legislators have begun to question the ease of acquiring assault weapons in the US. Some pro-gun legislators afraid of losing their right to own firearms have called for greater focus on mental health issues, while others are questioning the effect of violent video games and other forms of entertainment on consumers.

The Second Amendment grants Americans the right to keep and bear arms, but Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative member of the National Rifle Association, said the Constitution should not protect the right to own weapons ‘designed for combat’, which includes the .223 Bushmaster rifle used in last week’s massacre. Shooting each victim at least four times, the shooter had hundreds of rounds of ammunition that could have killed every person in the school if he had enough time.

Obama said he is an avid support of the Second Amendment, but does not believe it should apply to ‘weapons of war’.

The shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., brought the issue of gun control into the spotlight, but the Elementary School massacre is prompting action against civilian ownership of military-style weapons.

"It's a complex problem that requires more than one solution,"

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

"It calls for not only re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions."

Obama said finding a solution will be a challenge, but a necessary one.

“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,”

he said. 

The president announced Wednesday that Biden’s team will examine mental health care options, as well as “look closely at a culture that glorifies guns and violence”, while considering a proposal to reduce gun violence and possible ban assault weapons.

Biden will coordinate a strategy among government agencies to attempt preventing future massacres and gun violence incidents. Incoming Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein said she will introduce an enhanced ban on assault weapons on the first day of the new Congress, which Biden will examine. 

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, was introduced by Feinstein and signed into law by former US President Bill Clinton. The 10-year legislation expired in 2004. Biden wrote part of the bill, which banned 19 types of semi-automatic firearms and criminalized the possession of high-capacity magazines. Obama said he chose Biden to lead the effort to come up with a proposal to reduce gun violence, in part because of his involvement with the previous ban.

Attempts at renewing the bill have so far failed, with no legislation reaching the floor for a vote. While Obama has long supported reinstating the bill, he had not made it a priority. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has called legislators to action and the administration is expecting input from the departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services regarding the matter. 

“Every day since, more Americans have died from gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society,” the president said.

“I urge members of Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner,”

Obama said, emphasizing the importance of acting on the proposal and legislation that Biden will work on in the coming weeks.