Gun Control Advocates See 'Opportune Moment' as Biden Readies Proposals

Partisans on both sides of the issue await Vice President Biden's proposals.

January 12, 2013, 9:56 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2013— -- Still days away from any announcement of the White House's proposals for addressing gun violence -- and less than one month since a mass shooting claimed the lives of 27 people, including 20 first graders, in Newtown, Conn. -- Americans are lining up around the block to buy guns.

And though gun control advocates say this is an "opportune moment" to enact stricter gun controls, the National Rifle Association is vowing to fight what it calls "a real threat to Second Amendment rights."

As ABC News first reported, December saw an unprecedented spike in background checks. A record 2.78 million registered for background checks last month, compared with 1.86 million in December 2011. Guns have disappeared from store walls, with buyers aware that the Obama administration wants changes.

Proposed changes could affect not only gun laws, but also mental health spending and current policies on violent movies and video games.

"This is an unusually opportune moment for the president to advance a policy goal like gun control, if he is of a mind to do it, even if Congress is resistant," gun expert and State University of New York Cortland political science professor Robert Spitzer said.

Vice President Joe Biden met with law enforcement, at-risk youth advocacy communities, national service organizations, the mental health community, interfaith groups, the entertainment industry, and gun owners themselves this week to get a variety of perspectives on gun violence issues.

In a meeting with representatives from the video game industry, including members of Electronic Arts, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and Activision Blizzard, Inc., the makers of the highly popular "Call of Duty" games, Biden said he asked for help.

"We're anxious to see if there's anything you can suggest to us that you think would be -- would help, as this president said, diminish the possibility, even if it only saved one kid's life," the vice president said Friday.

The makers of video games cite research that finds no connection between violent video games and violent crime.

"There is no evidence that suggest that exposure to violent video games is associated with violent criminal behavior," said Dr. Christopher Ferguson, professor of psychology at Texas A&M International University.

But Dr. Victor Strasburger, chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, said today's video games are more real, more intense than anything that's come before.

"Kids spend an incredible amount of time with the media. They see increasingly violent media," he said. "Why in this country would we spend $250 billion a year on advertising if we didn't think advertising affected people?"

Biden is expected to provide three major recommendations on the future of gun control.

Among the recommendations could be reinstituting the assault rifle ban. A ban was passed in 1994 as part of a crime bill, but expired 10 years later with its effectiveness still highly debated.

Universal background checks are also expected to be recommended. Currently, background checks are only conducted when a gun is purchased at a retailer. Universal background check would extend to any private sale of a gun, eliminating the loop hole of gun shows.

Biden may also recommend limit magazine clips, possibly banning high-capacity clips and restricting gun users to 10 rounds of ammunition, sparking what some call a "war on ammo."

The NRA, the most powerful gun lobby, is prepared for battle, vowing to fight any proposed changes to current gun legislation to protect gun owners' rights.

"I think that's a real threat to their Second Amendment rights, and we intend to do all we can to protect them," NRA president David Keene said.

Gun control advocates hope that President Obama, fresh off his reelection victory, will be able to tap into the nation's outrage over the murder of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School to get changes through Congress.

Spitzer said he is not sure whether that momentum will be enough.

"I think the likelihood that Congress will enact a sweeping set of gun control now is unlikely, but I think it's possible, because the conditions exist right now that are very similar to conditions that existed in the past when Congress did enact stronger gun laws," Spitzer said.

Biden is expected to make his recommendations Tuesday, and he has suggested that the president may be able to make some changes on his own using executive orders.

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