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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Biden holds talks with gun lobby

Published 10/01/2013 | 17:35

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US Vice President Joe Biden.

The US vice president Joe Biden has begun talks at the White House with the country's top gun lobby, which has fiercely opposed any suggestion of new gun controls.

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Mr Biden, who leads the administration's push on gun safety laws, said President Barack Obama could act on gun violence through executive action - meaning the approval of Congress would not be required. That has unnerved some gun owners, who stand by the constitutional right to bear arms and fear their guns will be taken away.

In Colorado, whose high-profile shootings include the Columbine school massacre and last year's theatre attack, about 100 protesters yesterday demanded that lawmakers reject gun control measures.

But one outspoken advocate for tighter restrictions, New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, insisted: "No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness now!"

Mr Cuomo's fiery policy speech called for tougher bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines of ammunition in a strengthening of the state's gun control laws, which already are some of the most restrictive in the country.

Former President Bill Clinton added his voice calling the availability of high-capacity gun magazines in the US "nuts."

Mr Obama hopes to announce his administration's steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on January 21. The gun issue has rocketed into the top tier of his concerns for his second term after last month's school shooting in Connecticut, where a young gunman used a high-powered rifle legally purchased by his mother to shoot dead 20 children six and seven years old.

Tackling gun violence won't be easy in a country that is home to about 35 to 50% of the world's civilian-owned firearms. The NRA has blocked gun-control efforts in the past and is opposing any new ones, instead saying after the Connecticut shooting that more guns should be given to the "good guys" and an armed security officer should be in every school.

Mr Obama supports steps including reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and closing loopholes that allow many gun buyers to avoid background checks.

NRA executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has dismissed an assault weapons ban as "a phoney piece of legislation". He is not attending today's meeting. Instead, the NRA was sending its top lobbyist, James Baker, who has worked with Mr Biden previously on gun issues.

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