WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden and other top White House officials are talking to communities hit hard by gun violence to make the case that Congress wouldn’t act, so the president did.
The White House sought to build support for President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns one day before he participates in a nationally televised town hall on gun issues. Biden participated in interviews with stations from Charleston, South Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Roanoke, Virginia, among others.
The White House is trying to build the same enthusiasm for Obama’s actions as gun rights enthusiasts have exhibited for the NRA’s argument that guns aren’t the problem. Biden and Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, took their message directly to communities still haunted by mass shootings.
“After giving them every chance to do something, the president decided we can’t wait any longer for these initiatives,” Biden said of lawmakers in an interview with NBC Connecticut in Hartford.
Biden told some of the stations that the executive actions could have stopped crimes in their communities. At the same time, he emphasized that eligible gun buyers will find it quicker to purchase a gun because part of the president’s plan involves hiring more people to conduct background checks.
“If anything we’re speeding up the access to it for people who are legally entitled to get a gun,” Biden told Roanoke station WDBJ, which lost two employees to a shooting while they worked on the air last year.
Roanoke is also near Virginia Tech, where 32 students and teachers died in an April 2007 massacre.
“Imagine what would have happened had Virginia reported the mental state of the shooter in Blacksburg down at Virginia Tech,” Biden said.
Biden said he’s met with the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and said they “share a lousy thing in common” with the loss of a child.
“It’s something that haunts you. It’s the idea of those beautiful little babies in those classrooms like dolls discarded,” Biden said.
Obama announced a 10-point plan to try to keep guns from people who shouldn’t have them. The centerpiece is new federal guidance that seeks to clarify who is “in the business” of selling firearms and has to get a federal license.
The White House also enlisted Democratic members of Congress to help push the president’s proposals. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Obama’s executive actions showed change was possible.
“If the Republican Party would rather work for the NRA than for the American people, and if they won’t do their jobs to keep our children safe, than somebody else has to step up,” Warren said.
Republican lawmakers have been critical of Obama, saying he focused his actions on law-abiding citizens rather than on criminals and terrorist. When asked whether House leaders planned to take legal action, House Speaker Paul Ryan said “we’re looking at all of our options.”
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.