DANBURY — Vice President Joe Biden has urged Congress to swiftly approve a federal task force’s recommendations for strengthened gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead in a December 12 shooting incident.
Mr Biden spoke at Western Connecticut State University on February 21 at a conference on gun violence, school safety, and mental health.
The vice president told the conference that Governor Dannel P. Malloy has acted swiftly, courageously, and decisively in proposing a range of gun control measures for action by the Connecticut General Assembly. (See related story.)
“I’ve never seen an array of officials as talented…as right in this state,” Mr Biden said.
Both US Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Senator Christopher Murphy are highly qualified to pursue the issue of improved gun control, the vice president said. The people of Newtown appreciate the talent and competence of both senators, he added.
“There is much we can do” in pursuing the goal of strengthened gun control, Mr Biden said.
The vice president said that he is often asked what is the single thing that can be done to reduce gun violence.
“There is no one thing,” he said. “There are multiple things.”
To the parents of the children killed at the school who were attending the conference, the vice president said, “I genuinely admire your courage.”
It is not easy for those parents to attend, he noted.
“We owe you a debt of gratitude…I deeply admire your courage,” he said.
Commenting on some federal legislators’ hesitation to support heightened gun control, Mr Biden said, “If you’re concerned about your political survival, you should [instead] be concerned about our children…There’s a moral price to pay for inaction.”
Of gun control opponents’ contention that guns are not the true problem, Mr Biden observed, “They say it isn’t about guns. They’re wrong. It is about guns.”
Assault weapons are dangerous and unnecessary weapons, he said, adding that police are being outgunned by criminals.
“We have to speak for those beautiful children who died…Enough is enough…We have an obligation to act,” Mr Biden said.
The vice president who leads a task force for President Barack Obama on strengthening gun control, said that a public consensus is emerging concerning reasonable actions that can be taken.
Universal background checks are needed to reduce the number of guns that fall into the wrong hands, he said.
Also, public safety can be improved if the maximum size of ammunition clips for semiautomatic weapons is reduced, he said.
And gun violence can be reduced by reinstituting a federal ban on assault weapons, he said.
The vice president urged passage of a federal law concerning gun trafficking.
Gun violence can be reduced by increasing the number of police, he said.
The federal government should encourage research on gun violence, as well as research on the possible adverse effects of playing violent video games, he said.
School should be made safer through the presence of school resource officers, Mr Biden said. Optionally, schools could be made safer through the presence of additional school psychologists or student counselors, he said.
Also, teachers need to be taught to notice instances of serious mental illness among students, he said.
Vice President Biden added that there needs to be better provision of mental health treatment services for young people. “We need a broad discussion in this country about mental illness…There is still a stigma and we need to do away with it,” he said, adding that the presence of that stigma prevents young people from seeking help.
Pursuing the goals which he mentioned would tend to reduce violence, he said.
“If we take these steps, we’ll save many more lives without infringing on anyone’s rights,” Mr Biden said.
“Now is the time to act,” the vice president stressed.