In a rare joint-appearance at New York’s City Hall Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to reassure gun control advocates fearful that an assault weapons ban has become a political impossibility now that it’s been dropped from the bill that will go to the floor of the U.S. Senate.
“For all those who say we can’t ban assault weapons, for all those who say the politics is too hard, how can they say that when you look at those 20 beautiful babies and what happened to them?” said Biden, citing the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that provoked the president to propose an ambitious gun control package that includes a limit on high-capacity magazines, universal background checks on gun sales, and a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Wednesday he was dropping the ban from the bill, which he said didn’t even have 40 votes behind it; even with the measure left out, said Reid, it can still be considered and voted on as an amendment.
Bloomberg, a staunch gun control advocate who spent over $2 million of his own money in a special Congressional election in Illinois last month to defeat a pro-gun candidate, made clear he intended to push for a vote on the ban regardless of in what form.
“Even though restrictions on military-style weapons will not be part of a bill that goes to the floor of the U.S. Senate, we will get a vote by the full Senate on an amendment to the bill,” said Bloomberg.
“Everyone’s gonna have to stand up and say, ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ and then the rest of us have to decide just how we feel about people and their stances,” he said.
Biden and Bloomberg were joined in City Hall’s Blue Room by six loved ones of a substitute teacher, and three parents whose children were lost, in the mass shooting late last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In his remarks, Biden echoed comments he made earlier this week in an interview with National Public Radio, when he insisted that he and the president were still “pushing that it pass” despite Reid dropping the measure from the Senate bill up slated for next month.
Asked if he felt he had sufficient support from Democrats in the upper chamber, Biden shrugged the question off, citing his fight nearly 20 years ago as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass a crime bill that included the ban.
“The same thing was told to me when the first assault weapons ban in ‘94 was attached to the Biden crime bill — that it couldn’t possibly pass,” Biden told NPR.
Gun control groups, too, say Reid’s dismissal of the ban has actually “fired up gun violence prevention advocates even more, even though his legislative strategy is designed to ensure that all four Senate Judiciary bills actually get up or down votes,” Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told BuzzFeed.
“That’s okay, though,” said Everitt. “Passion never hurts and we need a big push right now from people who are sick and tired of ‘Government By the NRA.’”
At the end the City Hall press conference, Biden listed the gun control measures originally proposed in the president’s legislative package — banning assault weapons, limiting high-capacity magazines, enacting universal background checks, and strengthening gun trafficking, mental health systems, and school satefy — and voted to implement every measure in some form.
“I’m absolutely confident that I’m not going to rest, and neither is the president, until we do all of these things,” Biden said.
Additional reporting by Evan McMorris-Santoro.