NRA takes aim at Biden's guns task force
The top US firearms lobby emerged from talks with Vice President Joe Biden on curbing violence Thursday saying he cared more about stamping out gun rights than protecting school kids.
Biden met a representative of the National Rifle Association (NRA) along with other gun rights groups as part of a policy review that he pledged will deliver its recommendations to President Barack Obama by Tuesday.
After also meeting hunting associations, victim support groups and mental health and law enforcement professionals, Biden insisted he had made no final decisions on policy responses to the Newtown school massacre and other mass shootings.
But he hinted that the White House was looking at universal background checks for gun purchasers and to limit the availability of high-capacity ammunition clips, either through new laws or executive orders by Obama.
In a sign of the tough environment facing gun control advocates, the powerful NRA issued a blunt statement after the talks, which came on a day when a student was shot and injured in an incident at a California high school.
"We attended today's White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals," the NRA said.
"We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment," the statement added. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms.
The NRA complained that while the White House says it is not prejudging policy responses to the issue, "this task force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners -- honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.
"We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen," the statement said.
The NRA has called for armed guards at all US schools and has said it will oppose efforts by Obama's Democratic allies to reintroduce a ban on the rapid firing assault weapons used in several recent shootings.
The White House gave few details of the meeting, other than the fact that it lasted 95 minutes, and officials would not comment on the NRA statement.
Obama gave Biden until late January to come up with policy ideas after attending a moving vigil for the 20 children and six adults killed by a gunman spraying bullets from an assault rifle in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14.
"I committed to him that I would have these recommendations to him by Tuesday," Biden said.
"It doesn't mean that this will be the end of the discussion, but the public wants us to act."
Biden, involved in law enforcement issues for years as a senator, said he had been impressed by calls from all stakeholders in the gun debate for more comprehensive background checks to be required for gun owners.
He also said there was a growing movement in Congress, even from pro-gun lawmakers, for restrictions on high-capacity magazines that can fire off multiple rounds at defenseless victims in a matter of seconds.
The vice president also met hunting lobby groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever as his review drew to a close.
Later, while Biden met gun groups, Attorney General Eric Holder was due to hold talks with retailers who sell guns, including officials from giant chains Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Biden and other top administration officials have also met mental health advocates in a bid to work out how to make it more difficult for disturbed people to get firearms.
He was also due to meet officials from the video gaming and entertainment industry, amid concerns that violent content could also play a role in inspiring massacres like the recent outrages in Newtown and Aurora, Colorado.
A new and alarming incident in California meanwhile added fresh impetus to the guns debate in Washington, after a high school student was shot and injured and another was taken into custody.