Vice President Joe Biden (Courtesy: Getty Images)
By Aamer Madhani
RICHMOND, VA - Vice President Biden took to the road Friday to drum up support for President Obama's gun control agenda, emphasizing the need to plug holes in the FBI's background check system.
Biden began the White House's public push by traveling to the heart of the Old Dominion - a state that's been largely resistant to further restrictions on gun ownership - to meet with lawmakers, law enforcement officers and experts who worked on gun-safety issues in the wake of the mass shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007.
In the Virginia Tech shooting, the gunman passed two background checks and was able to purchase weapons without a problem even though two years earlier he had been found to be a danger to himself and others.
"We know it makes a difference whether or not everyone adjudicated as not being competent to own a weapon" ends up in the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), Biden said. "Yet there are thousands of adjudications that sit in offices of cities and states that have not been transferred into the national facility called NICS."
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was governor at the time of the Virginia Tech tragedy, signed an executive order in the aftermath of the shooting instructing state agencies to step up efforts to block gun sales to people who had been involuntarily committed to inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment centers. The order, Kaine noted, was later ratified with bipartisan support from Virginia's Legislature.
"There are things we can do that work," said Kaine, who participated in Friday's meeting with Biden. "We don't have to despair about being able to reduce gun violence."
President Obama and Biden have no illusions about the difficulty they face in making certain aspects of their guns package a reality, most notably their push for reinstating an assault weapons ban, which faces considerable opposition among House Republicans and even from some Senate Democrats.
The president and vice president plan to spend considerable time in the coming weeks meeting with Americans in hopes of creating a wave of pressure on lawmakers to act.
"We're going to continue to go around the country," Biden said.
Notably, Biden did not mention the assault-weapons ban - a signature element of the administration's gun-control proposal - during comments to reporters following the meeting in Richmond. On Thursday, Biden said that he's more concerned about limiting the number of rounds in a gun magazine than about banning assault weapons.
But asked how he was going to win over the GOP-controlled House and several Senate Democrats who are reluctant to push major changes in gun regulations, Biden responded, "With persuasion and information."