Joe Biden

Biden Is Back for a 2nd Run at Gun Limits

by PETER BAKER, The New York Times  |  published on January 3, 2013

Never much known for restraint, Joseph R. Biden Jr. did not hold back during a presidential primary debate in 2007 when a voter asking about gun rights in a recorded video displayed a fearsome-looking semiautomatic rifle and declared, “This is my baby.”

Mr. Biden, then a Delaware senator in a dark-horse bid for the White House, shook his head. “I tell you what, if that’s his baby, he needs help,” he said. “I think he just made an admission against self-interest. I don’t know if he’s mentally qualified to own that gun.”

The candidate’s blunt, dismissive remark cheered one side of America’s long-polarized debate about guns and alienated the other. But it overlooked the salient reality that the rifle-toting voter was able to buy it legally even under a law that theoretically banned assault weapons and was co-written by Mr. Biden.

Five years later, that same type of weapon, a Bushmaster AR-15, is at the heart of a renewed national conversation about gun laws because it was used this month by the mass killer in Newtown, Conn. For Mr. Biden, now the vice president, the moment offers a second chance as he drafts a legislative response for President Obama that would reinstate his expired assault weapons ban, while also applying lessons from the last time around to make it more effective.

A president intent on pressing Congress to restrict access to high-powered guns could hardly find a more seasoned figure to take charge of the effort. Mr. Biden, who owns two shotguns, brings decades of experience and plenty of scar tissue from past battles with the National Rifle Association to frame recommendations that Mr. Obama wants ready by next month.

“He’s basically been doing this for a little over 30 years,” said former Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a longtime Biden adviser who was appointed to fill out his term. “I really do believe there isn’t anybody in America who has a better chance of getting this done by Jan. 15 than he does, not just because of his background in guns but because he’s not politically intimidated by the N.R.A., to put it mildly.”

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