WASHINGTON -- A day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced a wide-ranging series of gun-control initiatives, the administration kicked off its campaign to create public support and pressure lawmakers to pass the most comprehensive legislation since the mid-1990s.
"We're going to take this fight to the halls of Congress. We're going to take it beyond that," Vice-President Joe Biden told the U.S. Conference of Mayors Thursday. "We're going to take it to the American people. We're going to go around the country making our case, and we're going to let the voice of the American people be heard."
The administration will use Obama's fearsome campaign infrastructure to try to galvanize supporters around an issue that faces a protracted fight on Capitol Hill. To do so, the administration will pit its own grassroots network against gun-rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association.
"If you think we've suffered too much pain to allow this to continue, put down the paper, turn off the computer and get your members of Congress on record," Obama wrote in an opinion piece in the Connecticut Post. "Ask them why getting an A-grade from the gun lobby is more important than giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade."
The newspaper is based in Bridgeport, Conn., near Newtown, the site of last month's school shooting that left 20 children and six staff members dead and set off calls for new gun laws.
The mobilization efforts by the president's campaign committee began in earnest Thursday, with campaign manager Jim Messina emailing supporters an online petition and urging them to "stand with the president."
Biden, in his speech to the mayors, acknowledged there may not be "absolute unanimity" in how to mitigate gun violence, but emphasized consensus.
"Everyone acknowledges we have to do something. ... I hope we all agree that mass shootings like the ones that we witnessed in Newtown 34 days ago cannot continue to be tolerated," he said.
Biden outlined many of the initiatives announced by Obama Wednesday, including administrative actions to improve federal research on gun-related violence and to direct the attorney general to re-evaluate the categories of people who should be prohibited from owning a gun. And he made a forceful pitch for the policies that must pass Congress, including a universal background-check system for every gun sale and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
"High-capacity magazines don't have a practical sporting purpose or hunting purpose. As one hunter told me, if you got 12 rounds, it means you've already missed the deer 11 times," Biden said. "You should pack the sucker in at that point."
Biden took also pains to assert that the White House respected the Second Amendment.
-- Tribune Washington Bureau