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WASHINGTON — Vice President Biden said today that he's more concerned about limiting the number of rounds in a gun magazine than about banning assault weapons that account for a small percentage of gun deaths.
Biden argued that the shooter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., could have been slowed down if he had fewer rounds in each magazine and had to change clips more often. "Maybe if it took longer, maybe one more kid would be alive," Biden said during an online video chat on Google Plus.
The vice president led a White House gun control task force in the wake of the Newtown shooting last month. President Obama said last week after Biden completed the review that he wants Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The president conceded passage will be difficult, with support for gun ownership rights strong among lawmakers.
Biden says he wants a ban on assault weapons, even though he acknowledges they don't account for a large portion of gun deaths in America. He says a ban would solve part of the gun violence problem, particularly for police who can be outgunned by criminals with assault weapons.
"It is not an answer to all the problems," Biden said. But he said he views an assault-weapons ban as "a rational limitation on what type of weapons should be owned."
Biden's comments came on the same day that a group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, reintroduced legislation to ban assault weapons and magazines over 10 rounds. At a news conference backed by police officials, mayors and crime victims, the lawmakers acknowledged the heavy lift ahead to get the legislation through Congress.
"If anyone asks today 'Can you win this?,' we don't know, it's so uphill," Feinstein said. She said it only would happen if voters got behind the measures and called on their lawmakers to act.
Feinstein authored the original assault-weapons ban in 1994 which expired 10 years later when Congress, under pressure from the National Rifle Association, refused to extend it. There is debate about its effectiveness during the years it was in effect, in part because of loopholes that allowed gun manufacturers to work around it. Feinstein's new version is more comprehensive in defining what kinds of weapons are banned.
The NRA responded that the new bill would infringe on the Constitutional right to bear arms and that instead the focus should be on prosecuting criminals and improving the country's mental health system. "The American people know gun bans do not work, and we are confident Congress will reject Sen. Feinstein's wrong-headed approach," the NRA said in a statement.
At Feinstein's press conference, nearly a dozen different kinds of high-powered weapons were displayed that would be banned by the bill, including the kind of Bushmaster used in the Connecticut shooting.
The assault weapons ban in particular is seen as unlikely to make it through Congress, because of opposition by majority Republicans in the House and concerns from moderate Democrats in the Senate. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has cast doubt on its prospects. Some advocacy groups are focusing their attention instead on expanding background checks, which is seen as more doable politically.
Feinstein said those Democrats with concerns about the legislation needed to ask themselves what their silence would mean.
"Sandy Hook is more eloquent testimony than any of us could possibly give," she said. "If members of this body are so insensitive to what happened to those small bodies from that Bushmaster when it all becomes known, America is hopeless."
Biden is launching the White House's promotional tour on gun control Friday with a trip to Virginia, a state that has experienced its own school shooting tragedy yet maintains an avidly pro-gun tradition. His office said Biden will hold a roundtable discussion in Richmond with experts who worked on gun safety in the wake of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.
Biden will be accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jim Cole and other administration officials, as well as Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Bobby Scott, both Virginia Democrats.
List of firearms prohibited by name
Rifles: All AK types, including the following: AK, AK47, AK47S, AK–74, AKM, AKS, ARM, MAK90, MISR, NHM90, NHM91, Rock River Arms LAR–47, SA85, SA93, Vector Arms AK–47, VEPR, WASR–10, and WUM, IZHMASH Saiga AK, MAADI AK47 and ARM, Norinco 56S, 56S2, 84S, and 86S, Poly Technologies AK47 and AKS; All AR types, including the following: AR–10, AR–15, Armalite M15 22LR Carbine, Armalite M15–T, Barrett REC7, Beretta AR–70, Bushmaster ACR, Bushmaster Carbon 15, Bushmaster MOE series, Bushmaster XM15, Colt Match Target Rifles, DoubleStar AR rifles, DPMS Tactical Rifles, Heckler & Koch MR556, Olympic Arms, Remington R–15 rifles, Rock River Arms LAR–15, Sig Sauer SIG516 rifles, Smith & Wesson M&P15 Rifles, Stag Arms AR rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Co. SR556 rifles; Barrett M107A1; Barrett M82A1; Beretta CX4 Storm; Calico Liberty Series; CETME Sporter; Daewoo K–1, K–2, Max 1, Max 2, AR 100, and AR 110C; Fabrique Nationale/FN Herstal FAL, LAR, 22 FNC, 308 Match, L1A1 Sporter, PS90, SCAR, and FS2000; Feather Industries AT–9; Galil Model AR and Model ARM; Hi-Point Carbine; HK–91, HK–93, HK–94, HK–PSG–1 and HK USC; Kel-Tec Sub–2000, SU–16, and RFB; SIG AMT, SIG PE–57, Sig Sauer SG 550, and Sig Sauer SG 551; Springfield Armory SAR–48; Steyr AUG; Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rife M–14/20CF; All Thompson rifles, including the following: Thompson M1SB, Thompson T1100D, Thompson T150D, Thompson T1B, Thompson T1B100D, Thompson T1B50D, Thompson T1BSB, Thompson T1–C, Thompson T1D, Thompson T1SB, Thompson T5, Thompson T5100D, Thompson TM1, Thompson TM1C; UMAREX UZI Rifle; UZI Mini Carbine, UZI Model A Carbine, and UZI Model B Carbine; Valmet M62S, M71S, and M78; Vector Arms UZI Type; Weaver Arms Nighthawk; Wilkinson Arms Linda Carbine.
Pistols: All AK–47 types, including the following: Centurion 39 AK pistol, Draco AK–47 pistol, HCR AK–47 pistol, IO Inc. Hellpup AK–47 pistol, Krinkov pistol, Mini Draco AK–47 pistol, Yugo Krebs Krink pistol; All AR–15 types, including the following: American Spirit AR–15 pistol, Bushmaster Carbon 15 pistol, DoubleStar Corporation AR pistol, DPMS AR–15 pistol, Olympic Arms AR–15 pistol, Rock River Arms LAR 15 pistol; Calico Liberty pistols; DSA SA58 PKP FAL pistol; Encom MP–9 and MP–45; Heckler & Koch model SP-89 pistol; Intratec AB–10, TEC–22 Scorpion, TEC–9, and TEC–DC9; Kel-Tec PLR 16 pistol; The following MAC types: MAC–10, MAC–11; Masterpiece Arms MPA A930 Mini Pistol, MPA460 Pistol, MPA Tactical Pistol, and MPA Mini Tactical Pistol; Military Armament Corp. Ingram M–11, Velocity Arms VMAC; Sig Sauer P556 pistol; Sites Spectre; All Thompson types, including the following: Thompson TA510D, Thompson TA5; All UZI types, including: Micro-UZI.
Shotguns: Franchi LAW–12 and SPAS 12; All IZHMASH Saiga 12 types, including the following: IZHMASH Saiga 12, IZHMASH Saiga 12S, IZHMASH Saiga 12S EXP–01, IZHMASH Saiga 12K, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–030, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–040 Taktika; Streetsweeper; Striker 12.
Belt-fed semiautomatic firearms: All belt-fed semiautomatic firearms including TNW M2HB.