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Joe Biden on Gun Control

Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


Public supports gun control; Congress has not caught up

What matters the most to Biden these days is whether he can persuade Congress to enact meaningful gun-control laws. After the Sandy Hook shooting, in Newtown CT, Obama asked Biden to head up the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Though his efforts so far have failed to overcome congressional resistance, he says that he is not giving up.

Q: The background-check measure failed in the Senate, even though it was supported by 90% of the American people. What does it mean that we can't pass even the weakest measures to curb gun violence?

A: It means two things. One, that we have had an impact on the public's thinking. If we did that poll a week before Sandy Hook, my guess is you wouldn't have 90% of the American people. We've won the battle with the American public on this, not just on background checks but on magazines, on assault weapons, etc. This is a case where the public is way ahead of Congress. There has been a seminal shift in the attitude of the American public toward gun safety.

Source: Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone Magazine , May 9, 2013

Moral obligation to diminish senseless gun violence

It's been 33 days since the nation's heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. No one can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation--a moral obligation--to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.

I've worked in this field a long time--in the US Senate, having drafted the last gun violence legislation. I have no illusions about how hard the task is in front of us. But I also have never seen the nation's conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook. The world has changed, and it's demanding action.

The President asked me to put together a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation we have. The Cabinet and I sat down with 229 groups from law enforcement agencies to public health officials, to gun advocacy groups, to sportsmen & hunters & religious leaders.

Source: Remarks by the President & Vice President on Gun Violence , Jan 16, 2013

Keep assault weapons ban; close gun show loophole

Q: How many of you, in your adult lifetime, have had a gun in the house?

[Show of hands]: Senator Gravel, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Governor Richardson, Congressman Kucinich.

Q: Sen. Biden, what could the federal government have done to save those kids at Virginia Tech?

A: What they could have done is three things.

  1. In the so-called Biden crime bill, we put 100,000 cops on the street. Iíve worked with law enforcement for the past 30 years, with armor-piercing bullets, waiting periods, etc. But the one thing thatís clear: We should not have let the assault weapons ban lapse.
  2. We should close this so-called gun show loophole, so you canít go into a gun show and buy a gun that you couldnít buy walking into a gun shop.
  3. We have let the country down in the way in which we have not focused on mental illness. We should know that your kid is safe at college. If teachers determine that a child is a danger, the school should be able to take them off the campus.
Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. Voting YES would:
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S 397 ; vote number 2005-219 on Jul 29, 2005

Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence.

Vote to pass a bill that would block certain civil lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of firearms and ammunition, mainly those lawsuits aimed at making them liable for gun violence. In this bill, trade groups would also be protected The bill would call for the dismissal of pending lawsuits against the gun industry. The exception would be lawsuits regarding a defect in a weapon or ammunition. It also would provide a 10-year reauthorization of the assault weapons ban which is set to expire in September 2004. The bill would increase the penalties for gun-related violent or drug trafficking crimes which have not resulted in death, to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment. The bill calls for criminal background checks on all firearm transactions at gun shows where at least 75 guns are sold. Exemptions would be made available for dealers selling guns from their homes as well as members-only gun swaps and meets carried out by nonprofit hunting clubs.
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S.1805/H.R.1036 ; vote number 2004-30 on Mar 2, 2004

Voted YES on background checks at gun shows.

Require background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)50; VP decided YES
Reference: Lautenberg Amdt #362; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-134 on May 20, 1999

Voted NO on more penalties for gun & drug violations.

The Hatch amdt would increase mandatory penalties for the illegal transfer or use of firearms, fund additional drug case prosecutors, and require background check on purchasers at gun shows. [A YES vote supports stricter penalties].
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)48; N)47; NV)5
Reference: Hatch Amendment #344; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-118 on May 14, 1999

Voted NO on loosening license & background checks at gun shows.

Vote to table or kill a motion to require that all gun sales at gun shows be completed by federally licensed gun dealers. Also requires background checks to be completed on buyers and requires gun show promoters to register with the Treasury.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-111 on May 11, 1999

Voted NO on maintaining current law: guns sold without trigger locks.

Vote to table [kill] an amendment to make it unlawful for gun dealers to sell handguns without providing trigger locks. Violation of the law would result in civil penalties, such as suspension or revocation of the dealer's license, or a fine.
Reference: Bill S 2260 ; vote number 1998-216 on Jul 21, 1998

Rated F by the NRA, indicating a pro-gun control voting record.

Biden scores F by NRA on pro-gun rights policies

While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly three million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs.

The following ratings are based on lifetime voting records on gun issues and the results of a questionaire sent to all Congressional candidates; the NRA assigned a letter grade (with A+ being the highest and F being the lowest).

Source: NRA website 02n-NRA on Dec 31, 2003

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Page last updated: Sep 19, 2014