Nationwide Efforts To Curb Gun Violence Begin To Gain Steam
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
I'm Audie Cornish. And we begin this hour with developing efforts to combat gun violence in the United States.
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CORNISH: With recent mass killings in Colorado and Connecticut on their minds, residents of another place scarred by violence marked a somber anniversary today.
BLOCK: In Tucson, Arizona, a downtown fire station rang its bell 19 times. Today marks two years since a gunman killed six people and injured 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a supermarket parking lot.
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CORNISH: Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, visited Newtown, Connecticut last week to meet some of the families who lost children in the school shooting there.
Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning, America," both said the visit wasn't easy.
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MARK KELLY: It brought back a lot of memories about what that was like for us some two years ago today. And you hope that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. But you know what? It does happen again.
BLOCK: Today the couple unveiled their political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions. They say it is focused on advocating gun violence protection and balancing the influence of the gun lobby.
CORNISH: That announcement comes while the White House is working on its own gun policy initiatives. After the Newtown shootings, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with coming up with a new set of gun policies. Here to discuss that effort is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. And Mara, to start, do we have any way of knowing what kind of progress that the vice president is making?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, the vice president has been meeting with stakeholders. Tomorrow, he's talking with victims' groups and gun safety organizations. Then, on Thursday, he's going to be talking to sportsmen's groups and gun ownership organizations. He's also going to hold meetings with representatives of the entertainment and video game industries. All this is meant to come up with a set of new gun policies this month that would be legislation as well as executive orders or new regulations that are aimed at preventing the kind of massacres we've seen in Newtown and Aurora and Tucson.
And by the way, advocates are no longer calling it gun control. They're calling it gun violence prevention.
CORNISH: And you mentioned gun owners. Will the National Rifle Association be involved in this?
LIASSON: Yes. On Thursday, they are coming to the White House. The NRA says that it's interested in listening to the White House and the White House says it's interested in listening to the stakeholders. But the NRA has been pretty clear that they think the solution to bad guys with guns is to arm good guys with guns.
In addition to that, there is a group, a coalition of gun owners' groups, that will be holding a gun appreciation day two days before President Barack Obama is inaugurated. And they are urging gun owners to turn out en masse at gun stores and shooting ranges to show their opposition to any new gun control legislation.
CORNISH: And, of course, policies are one thing, but what are the prospects for gun legislation this year?
LIASSON: Well, it's hard to imagine the House of Representatives passing or even bringing up gun control laws. I think this all depends on whether the shootings in Newtown were really a turning point in the way that other incidents like them haven't been. We also want to see if Gabby Giffords and her husband and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, can really create a counterweight to the NRA.
And we also need to see exactly how much of a priority the president is going to make this. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence actually gave the president an F for his first term. They point to all the legislation that he signed that has made guns more accessible, allowing loaded firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak or loaded firearms in national parks.
CORNISH: Meanwhile, the president, of course, has a lot on his wish list for a second term. Immigration reform, the deficit, the debt ceiling discussions, climate change legislation. So where does gun policy fit into this?
LIASSON: Well, that is a pretty ambitious list. There is only so much bandwidth for an administration or a Congress to deal with. But that is why the administration is saying, this isn't just about legislation. No single action is going to solve the problems. I think you should expect some executive action. They want to go further than just the things the president has already advocated, which is a renewal of the assault weapons ban, a renewal of the ban on high-capacity magazines and a closing of the gun show loophole.
They're talking perhaps about a national database for tracking the sale of weapons, some way to strengthen mental health background checks, maybe regulations that would require universal background checks for gun buyers. So they're saying no single action is going to solve the problem, and it's not going to just focus on legislation.
CORNISH: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you.
LIASSON: Thank you, Audie.
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