WASHINGTON — Requiring all gun buyers to pass a federal background check could be a key part of a White House plan to combat mass shootings, Vice President Joe Biden indicated, as he prepared to present recommendations to the president on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Biden said he had found a “surprising recurrence of suggestions" for “universal background checks" in meetings with interest groups. Background checks are not currently required in private sales by unlicensed dealers, including transactions conducted at gun shows.
Biden is expected to propose measures that President Barack Obama could institute by executive action, as well as proposed laws, such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The quick movement to roll out potential remedies to mitigate gun violence — ahead of schedule and just days before Obama and Biden are sworn into a second term — is a signal of the urgency the White House aims to project in developing a response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, which led to the deaths of 20 young students and six staff members.
“The public wants us to act," Biden said.
But the National Rifle Association, which sent a representative to Biden’s meeting Thursday with gun organizations, issued a chilly statement, an indication of the challenge ahead.
“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems," the NRA statement said. “We will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of Congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not."
The White House was circumspect, noting only that the meeting lasted more than an hour and a half and providing a photo of a table surrounded by stony faces.
Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, said, while there were some tense moments, “it was a conversation, not a lecture."
Since being tapped by Obama to head up the White House response, Biden and other administration officials have met with an array of groups, including mental health professionals, law enforcement and clergy. On Thursday, Biden also met with hunters, conservationists and entertainment industry officials. On Friday, he plans to meet with representatives from the video game industry.