COMMENTARY | In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama is urging action on the complex issue of violence in the US as soon as January. As the president noted in his address today, he won’t waste time with yet another delegation or committee. He wants proposals on his desk yesterday, and has chosen his right-hand Joe Biden to lead the initiative.
Though Obama didn’t share any concrete details regarding what proposals or issues would be handled by the Biden-led group, he did say that it would address mental health accessibility, violence in pop culture, and yes, gun control. Biden was specifically selected to head up the task force because of his involvement in the federal assault weapons ban of 1994.
According to Slate, Biden’s task force includes: Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Biden’s chief counsel Cynthia C. Hogan, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Moderates like myself are likely relieved by President Obama’s pledge to put everything on the table. On it’s face, it is a bipartisan solution, something this country desperately needs. Those camped in polar opposite fields of the issue may see it differently.
For gun rights advocates, the panel looks a little one-sided. There isn’t a single Republican in the group. Not only was Vice President Joe Biden instrumental in the 1994 assault weapons ban that quietly expired in 2004, the NRA has given him an “F” rating for his support (or lack thereof) for gun rights. Also, what the heck is Attorney General Eric Holder, who has controversial ties to the botched Fast and Furious initiative, doing on that task force?
Gun control advocates will look at the task force and celebrate. What a godsend. There isn’t a single visible gun rights advocate on Joe Biden’s task force.
Except Joe Biden.
The Washington Examiner uncovered this video of then-VP candidate Joe Biden giving a speech in southwest Virginia in 2008. In the speech, Biden does everything he can to convince voters that then-candidate Barack Obama is himself a supporter of the Second Amendment.
Sure, he doesn’t make any specific mention of assault weapons, but clearly states:
“I guarantee you Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey. Don’t buy that malarkey. They’re going to start peddling that to you.”
Biden of 2008 also said that he is himself a proud gun owner.
“If he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem,” Biden added, referring to Obama.
Of course, any gun control legislation that passes may include an option for high-ranking political figures to opt out. Such controversy has arisen in other cases, most recently with the Affordable Care Act.
But that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is to hold Joe Biden to his campaign trail promises. Of course, these comments reflect a pre-Sandy Hook era, and anyone is able to change their minds. Except politicians.
For gun rights advocates, Joe Biden of 2008 versus Joe Biden of 2012 has the potential to become a huge talking point in the coming months. For gun control advocates, maybe the case isn’t as clear of a win as you might have hoped.