Biden to mayors: "We have to act" on gun violence

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden addresses the 81st Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) at Capital Hilton Hotel January 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. Biden delivered remarks on gun control during the opening plenary luncheon of the meeting.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The day after President Obama unveiled a sweeping set of proposals for reducing gun violence in America, Vice President Joe Biden pushed the nation's mayors to join in the campaign, urging them to "use every fiber in our being" to help stop "the carnage on our streets and in our schools."

Speaking before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Biden outlined the bullet points of Mr. Obama's plan -- which was developed based on Biden's recommendations -- and reiterated the administration's sense of urgency on issues relating to gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"That tragedy, in all my years in public life, I think has affected the public psyche in a way that I've never seen before," he said. "I know we don't have absolute unanimity in this ballroom, nor do we in any ballroom, but we all know everyone acknowledges we have to do something. We have to act. I hope we all agree there's a need to respond to the carnage on our streets and in our schools."

As the Obama administration prepares to embark on a potentially epic congressional debate on gun control, Biden acknowledged the difficulties in taking on the gun lobby. But he argued that "we have no choice" but to confront the challenge.

"I've been in this fight a long time. I have no illusions about the fight's that in front of us. I have no illusions about distortions that will come from all sides. But I know full well the political obstacles that will be thrown up against us are not impenetrable," he said. "There are some who say the most powerful voice in this debate belongs to the gun lobby... I think they're wrong. This time it will not be like times that have come before. Newtown has shocked the nation."

Biden stressed the president's call for bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, arguing that weaponry of that nature isn't necessary for hunting -- and that a 12-round clip shouldn't be necessary to kill a deer.

"If you've got 12 rounds, it means you've already missed the deer 11 times," he said. "High capacity magazines are not worth the risk."

Sympathizing with mayors for their relative lack of power to enact gun legislation in their cities, Biden also spoke about everyday gun violence in cities across the country. He sought support among the audience for universal background checks for gun-buyers, as well as the implementation of laws to prevent gun trafficking.

But ultimately, he argued, the conversation isn't just about gun violence -- it's also about broader cultural questions.

"I think we can begin an endeavor that stops the coarsing [sic] of American culture and society. I think we can begin to turn this around," he said. "It's not all because of guns. It's a lot of other things. But maybe what happened in Newtown is a call to action."