Gun rights activists fired up by Biden's gun violence task force

Reports that the White House will push broad legislation have reenergized gun rights groups

By Jillian Rayfield
January 8, 2013 7:12PM (UTC)
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As reports surface that the White House is considering a much broader gun control agenda than initially predicted, gun rights activists are using the potential legislation to fire up their supporters.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the White House gun violence task force, led by Joe Biden, is planning to push for a broad crackdown on guns. Initially, the measures that seemed to be gaining the most momentum were a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. But, from the Post:


A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

Evan McMorris-Santoro from TPM reports that the Post's report about the task force's agenda are helping gun rights activists "galvanize" their supporters, as Dave Workman, a former NRA board member, put it. Workman told TPM that the Post's article "was a Molotov cocktail right into the middle of this thing. That lit the fuse, it really did.”

For one thing, gun rights activists have announced "Gun Appreciation Day" on January 19.

From TPM:


With the unsettling images of the Newtown shooting fading farther and farther away into history, Workman says gun rights advocates are ready to stand up and fight against the gun control push. Workman said his groups have seen a spike in memberships since Newtown. The NRA has also reported rising membership since the shooting and the fresh talk of gun control it brought to Washington.

Gun Appreciation Day is just one of the many things the “galvanized” gun rights groups will do now that the holidays are over, Workman said. The fight on Capitol Hill will get ugly, he added, but stories like the one in the Washington Post make it easier for gun rights advocates to prove their underlying point, namely that the president hates guns and gun owners.

On the other side, gun control advocates have also kicked into high gear following the report. The Huffington Post reports that the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence will launch a series of print ads targeting newly sworn-in Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., after she criticized the White House for considering a more comprehensive gun control push. “Shame on you, Senator Heidi Heitkamp," the ad says, "for telling the country on Sunday that the Obama Administration’s response to Newtown -- which may include universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines -- is 'extreme.'"

"I don’t think that proposal necessarily fit the bill for me,” Heitkamp had said on Sunday on ABC's This Week. “I’m not a big believer that this is a one-size-fits-all solution. We need to have a balanced approach and we need to live in reality, what can you actually get passed."

On Tuesday, the second anniversary of the Tucson shootings, Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelley announced a gun control initiative called Americans for Responsible Solutions, as a way of  fighting back against the NRA's influence in Washington, D.C. In an op-ed in USA Today, Giffords and Kelly wrote: "Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer."


Meanwhile, the AP reports that Biden will call in "gun owner groups, victims' organizations and representatives from the video-game industry" to the White House on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss potential legislation. President Obama has given the task force until the end of January to send him proposals.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Gun Control Gun Violence Joe Biden Newtown School Shooting Nra