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Gun control: Why Vice President Biden is trying again

Vice President Biden on Tuesday will tout executive action on gun control and push to revive legislation. But the recent news on NSA data-mining could make it even harder to get votes.

By Staff writer / June 18, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden speaking two weeks ago at the White House in Washington. On Tuesday, Biden will hold an event at the White House focused on executive branch actions taken to reduce gun violence and a renewed effort to get Congress to expand background checks on gun buyers.

Susan Walsh/AP

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Washington

Gun control is back – at least as a White House topic.  

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On Tuesday, while President Obama is off in Europe, Vice President Joe Biden will hold an event at the White House focused on executive branch actions taken to reduce gun violence and a renewed effort to get Congress to expand background checks on gun buyers.

“Yes, he will make that push, as well as pointing out that the administration will continue to do everything in its own power to advance this debate,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Monday previewing the event.

Tuesday morning, Vice President Biden’s office released a progress report, stating that the administration has completed or made “significant progress” on 21 of the 23 anti-gun-violence measures Mr. Obama announced in January. The measures were a response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre in December that shocked the nation.

An effort in the Senate to pass a bill expanding background checks stalled in April, as the Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed, getting only to 54. There’s no public indication that any of the “no” votes are willing to switch, despite efforts by gun-control activists to shame them. And even if the bill could get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster, its prospects are even worse in the Republican-controlled House.

So why is Mr. Biden trying again to revive the effort? For one, expanded background checks remain popular with the public. Another reason, perhaps the most important, is gut level: The vice president and his boss, the president, have an emotional devotion to this issue.

“Biden believes in this,” says Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. “I think there is a certain degree of wanting to fight the fight.”

And, Mr. Fenn notes, Biden’s chief of staff is Bruce Reed, a domestic policy veteran of the Clinton White House and a key player in the successful passage of gun control legislation in 1994. “Bruce is from Idaho – you get gun control if you’re from Idaho,” Fenn says.

Another reason for Biden to continue pushing is to keep up with the chorus of activists fighting to keep the issue alive in the public’s mind. Last week marked six months since Newtown, an emotional moment for the families and a time for stock-taking. Since Newtown, as of June 13, nearly 5,200 people have been killed by firearms in the United States, according to crowd-sourced data collected by Slate.com and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths.

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