"We have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut," said Vice President Joe Biden today, meeting with the leaders of law enforcement organizations whom he said had been his "friends and allies for over 35 years."
The vice president convened the first meeting of his interagency commission to examine possible actions to prevent the next gun violence tragedy like the one that befell Sandy Hill Elementary School.
"We're going to need your help," he said to the group, suggesting he wants them to help push for a reinstatement of the 1994 ban on some types of semiautomatic assault rifles, more colloquially known as the "assault weapons ban," which expired in 2004. That ban was part of the larger Crime Bill, which Biden, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped draft.
"We see no reason why the assault weapons ban - quite frankly, you guys helped me write in the original crime bill. It passed the Senate then didn't get past the House. And then we went back at it again with (Senator) Dianne Feinstein's leadership, she convinced people to put it back in the bill."
Sitting between Thomas Nee, the president of the National Association of Police Organizations, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is president of Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association, Mr. Biden recalled that when he began drafting the legislation twenty years ago, "everybody thought that was just an exercise to reach out and pretend we cared about what you thought."
But the police organizations came forward and suggested ideas not just about punishment and incarceration but about community policing, reaching out, and having drug courts.
"You know better than anyone what is needed out there," said the vice president. "And what I think the public has learned about you is you have a much more holistic view of how to deal with violence on our streets and in our country that you're ever given credit for."
The vice president was joined in the Cordell Hull Conference Room on the second floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building by the Cabinet secretaries from the four relevant agencies - Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius - as well as Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the vice president's chief of staff Bruce Reed, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz and White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler.
In addition to Nee and Ramsey, representing law enforcement were the leaders of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs' Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Latino Peace Officers Association, the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Troopers Coalition, the Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Police Executive Research Forum.
"We've worked on everything from cop-killer bullets to the type of weapons that should be off the street and a whole lot else," the vice president said. "So that's what I want to talk to you about today. I want to hear your views because for anything to get done, we're going to need your advocacy."
And with that, he said, "I'd like to disinvite the press out of the room."