In the 24 hours or so since President Obama debuted the comprehensive plan to curb gun violence following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, gun rights groups and their political allies have gone to the mattresses -- accusing the the president of trying to repeal the Second Amendment by fiat as part of his larger plan to confiscate guns from their legal owners. Republican state leaders have pledged to secede from Obama's plans. Republicans in Congress have promised to vanquish the president on Capitol Hill.
The executive actions on guns Obama signed Wednesday, as well as the legislative plans proposed for Congress, don't do much to guns already in the hands of owners. Obama's proposed ban on high-capacity magazines and so-called assault weapons would only apply to newly manufactured equipment, for example. Nevertheless, opponents of the plan see it as a wholesale assault on the Second Amendment from a president they were convinced was an anti-gun radical all along.
Enter Biden. Speaking at the US Conference Of Mayors meeting in Washington, Biden stood up for the Second Amendment and promised the White House wasn't going after it. Biden told the tale of his own firearms -- "I have a 20 gauge and a 12 gauge shotgun," he said -- and those owned by his family. Taking direct aim at a National Rifle Association criticism of Obama's push for universal background checks (the group has said background checks would make private guns sales tougher) Biden said the law could be written so there was an exception to background check rules for sales to immediate family members. Besides, he said, people wanting to have a private gun transaction can "take another 20 minutes and go to Dick's Sporting Goods" to get a background check.
This was Biden the hunter, the sportsman, the flag-waving Second Amendment fan. Other parts of the speech talked about mental health and what Biden called "the coarsening of our culture" -- the violent video games and entertainment Biden said may be a contributing factor to gun violence -- but the main focus was to prove that gun owners have nothing to fear from the White House.
"Let me be absolutely clear, like most Americans I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms," Biden said. "I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection."
A love of guns does not have to equal hatred of the White House plan, Biden said.
"I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale," he said. "I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown. That's what these reforms are designed to do. They are commonsense measures."
A video highlight reel of Biden talking about his appreciation for firearms Thursday: