WASHINGTON – Gun control remains stalemated in Congress, but Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday he’s optimistic a bill that would expand background checks of gun buyers will become law.
“The president and I – our team – have not given up,” Biden said during an event at the White House.
The Senate in April was four votes short on a bill that would expand FBI background checks, and there’s been no movement on the gun control issue since.
But President Obama has taken executive action, including the release Tuesday of guidance for schools and places of worship on how to develop emergency plans in case of threats of violence.
The steps the president can take are modest. For comprehensive gun control measures to become law Congress must act.
Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said there are efforts underway to modify the failed background check bill in order to sway some votes, although they admitted they have yet to win a convert.
But they said they are beginning to move some of their colleagues on the issue.
“I think we’re closer to 60 votes than we were before,” Blumenthal said.
Murphy said he will fight against any watering down of the bill. He said the background check bill had already been weakened to win the support of a few Republican senators and “was not the bill we wanted.”
Murphy also said it’s unlikely Congress will vote again on gun control until after the August recess and after a comprehensive immigration bill is considered.
“So we have time,” Murphy said.
Biden said the White House continues to be involved in lobbying Congress.
He also said some senators who voted against the bill are paying a political price, and “some of them wonder if that was prudent.”
“I won’t name names but look at the polls of those who voted ‘no,’” Biden said.
The White House released a report card Tuesday on the status of 23 actions Obama proposed about a month after the Newtown shootings.
The report card said 21 of those goals have been accomplished, including offering $20 million in incentives to states that improve their reporting to the FBI of felons and mentally ill people who under law can’t possess gun.
Other initiatives included giving schools a model for emergency plans, incentives for hiring school resource officers and directing the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes of gun violence.
Murphy said the White House must also keep up its pressure on Congress.
“The White House should be talking about (gun control) every chance it gets,” he said.
Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat, was also at the White House event, invited by Biden who praised Connecticut’s tough new gun laws.
After the event Sharkey said he took issue with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s comment that the approval of those gun laws was a “knee jerk” reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
“I would consider that statement as the actions of a jerk,” Sharkey said.
Perry was in Connecticut this week to try to persuade Connecticut gun manufacturers to move to Texas.
(This story originally appeared at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, non-profit news organization covering government, politics, and public policy in the state.)