Biden: Gun control to wait for immigration

Politico – by REID J. EPSTEIN, 5/6/13

Vice President Joe Biden on Monday acknowledged what everyone involved in gun control has been saying privately for weeks: Any votes for expanded background checks must wait at least through the summer while the Senate debates immigration reform.

Biden offered the White House timeline to a group of about 20 representatives from faith-based organizations, three people who attended the meeting told POLITICO.  

The vice president’s words mark the first time the White House has revealed a timeline that has been widely discussed among gun control advocates and senior aides to senators who are pushing background checks.

“He doesn’t think it will come back before they’ve made some pretty good steps on immigration,” said Sister Marjorie Clark, a lobbyist for Network, the Catholic social justice organization. “He said, ‘I don’t think it will happen before immigration but it will come back.’”

The timeline adds to Biden’s Thursday revelation that he plans to travel the country to push the White House gun control agenda. Then, in a meeting with representatives of law enforcement organizations, Biden said he planned extensive travel to states where senators voted against background checks and said he would take an active role in tweaking the legislation to win more votes.

Biden said Thursday that he “hadn’t really discussed” his plans with Obama. White House press secretary Jay Carney on Friday reiterated that Biden is “a key player” in the White House gun control push but didn’t respond to Biden’s specific comments.

And while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) continues to press recalcitrant colleagues to support a background checks bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has no plans to call for another gun control vote – which would include a gun trafficking bill – before there are 60 solid votes in favor.

Meanwhile the Senate debate over comprehensive immigration reform is expected to take months and may not be concluded until July or August.

Biden did not discuss individual senators who the White House and its allies on the issue would need to win over Monday, though he did make note that a number of senators who voted in favor of expanded background checks have seen their approval ratings rise, while those who voted no have seen theirs drop, said Michael McBride, a lead organizer at the PICO Network, an alliance of faith-based organizations.

“There was a sense that, a number of folks who may love another opportunity to vote on this,” McBride said. “But he didn’t give us a sense of who those were.”

Those present for the Monday evening meeting included Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Barrett Duke, the vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm.

The meeting also included Bruce Reed, Biden’s chief of staff, and Melissa Rogers, the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, according to people who attended.

Graham, two people in the meeting said, told Biden the government should consider taxing media companies that broadcast violent images and produce violent video games.

“He floated the idea that media and entertainment that portray violence should be subject to a special tax, with the proceeds going to help victims and their families,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Biden told Graham that there was “no restriction on the ability to do that, there’s no legal reason why they couldn’t” tax violent images, Clark added.

Graham’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Biden’s office also did not respond to requests to comment about the meeting.

Biden told the religious leaders that he would like to see a comprehensive study of the impact that violent video games and movies has on developing brains.

“He said they really need a good scientific study, which they’ve done on things like smoking,” Clark said.

Biden thanked the religious leaders for their work on gun control since the White House began pushing for it after the December massacre at Newtown, Conn.

“We are energized,” said Vincent DeMarco, the Baltimore-based national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. “One way to look at it is we all came out of that room energized in January and helped convince 19 senators and now we got to convince five more.”

Five people who attended the 2½-hour meeting told POLITICO that Biden made a specific plea to those present to keep his words off the record from reporters.

“He basically just said in general that these stakeholder meetings that if you put words into the vice president’s mouth it sometimes comes out wrong and gets misquoted,” said Shantha Alonso, the director of the poverty program at the National Council of Churches.

“He said it was off the record,” Clark said.  “What he did say was that he had had a meeting with another group and at some point in the past and he doesn’t like being misquoted and he felt that stuff was said that wasn’t accurate and he trusted that that wouldn’t happen again.”

One thought on “Biden: Gun control to wait for immigration

  1. Biden is now co opting religious so-called leaders, taxing violent images (impossible to define), and what exactly do they mean by “convince” 5 more senators? This pisses me off on so many levels I don’t know where to begin…

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