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Joe Biden meets with religious leaders, the NRA is next

Vice President Joe Biden held an unannounced meeting with 12 religious leaders Wednesday. On Thursday, Biden plans to meet with NRA, sportsmen, and entertainment industry to discuss how to curb gun violence.

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Biden faces a tougher audience when the NRA joins other gun-owner groups and retailers including Wal-Mart. NRA officials didn't return messages for comment Wednesday, but the group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has dismissed the assault weapons ban as "a phony piece of legislation" and has recommended putting armed guards in all schools as a way to stop another school shooting.

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Biden said he wanted to hear from "all parties, on whatever side of this debate you fall."

In a nod to political realities that could imperil sweeping gun-control legislation, Biden said the administration is weighing executive action in addition to recommending legislation by Congress.

Recommendations to the Biden group include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.

The Brady Campaign says that some 40 percent of gun sales are made without background checks, such as at gun shows and over the Internet.

The shootings in Newtown, in which 20 children and six adults were killed by a man with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, have prodded the administration to act. Obama had remained largely silent on gun control after the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 12 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the Colorado movie theater killing of a dozen people and wounding of many more last July.

Biden, referring to the Newtown shootings, said at the White House, "Every once in a while, there's something that awakens the conscience of the country, and that tragic event did it in a way like nothing I've seen in my career."

Biden said he and Obama are determined to take action.

"We can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly," he said.

The president hopes to announce his administration's next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term.

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Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Darlene Superville and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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