Just hours after a gunman shot down three in a courthouse in nearby Wilmington, Del., Vice President Joe Biden sat down for a roundtable discussion on gun control with local government and law enforcement leaders on Monday.
Attendees at the event — held at Girard College in North Philadelphia — included Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Philadelphia Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who represents West Philadelphia.
Officials from police departments across the east coast, including Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Atlantic City, also attended to weigh in on the discussion.
“We cannot wait,” Biden said after the meeting, which was closed to press. “The images of those innocent little children being riddled with bullet holes has ripped the conscience of the nation. And the nation is demanding that we act responsibly.”
Several participants in the discussion shared their conclusions from the closed-door meeting. Most commented on the consensus among the attendees about the need for more stringent gun control in the wake of mass shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo. in the past year.
They also touched on existing federal programs designed to beef up law enforcement, such as Community Oriented Policing Services, which provides funding assistance for state and local police.
“The one thing the federal government can do by way of legislation is to support existing programs that we know have worked for a generation and fully fund them,” Casey said.
While representatives of the federal government, such as Biden and Casey, spoke to the importance of gun control legislation, local and state officials stressed the magnitude of gun violence in urban areas, and not just in mass shootings.
“We have our own versions of the Sandy Hooks and Columbines and Aurora, Colorados every day,” Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
Biden also acknowledged the “Sandy Hook plus” number of fatal shootings each day in cities with high rates of gun violence, urging “rational gun safety measures” such as universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines. Nutter also brought up the hundreds of thousands of offenders whose names are not yet in the Pennsylvania database which is used for background checks on those wishing to purchase a gun.
“We need to immediately insist that those names be uploaded into the system,” he said. “Those individuals are individuals who should not be able to purchase a weapon, in the state of Pennsylvania or elsewhere.”
Biden and others also addressed concerns of gun rights advocates, who have argued that further gun control could violate the Second Amendment.
“No one who legitimately owns a firearm has any worry about their Constitutional rights being violated,” Biden said. “If we can save the life of one single person — one child — without any impact on an individual’s Constitutional right, then why in God’s name should we not do that?”
In the post-meeting press event, the group shared their consensus on a variety of issues, with very little disagreement between the participants. Much of what was mentioned echoed President Barack Obama’s set of 23 gun control proposals last month. But the group also stressed the importance of a publicity campaign as crucial to ensuring passage of gun control measures in the near future.
“We’re going to be judged very harshly if we don’t respond,” Biden added. “This message of rational gun safety is a message that will be embraced by rural communities as well as urban communities, simply because it makes sense.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.