The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School sparked a national discussion about reducing gun violence and keeping kids safe. In response, Vice President Joe Biden developed the Administration's gun control and gun safety proposals, and he has become the leading advocate for their passage. In an exclusive Facebook video town hall, the Vice President sat down with Michael Kress, executive editor of Parents.com, to answer questions -- which were posted on our Facebook page by you, our readers -- about this topic.
What follows are videos of the chat and a transcript of it. (Or watch the full video of our town hall with Joe Biden.)
The first question comes from Mary Metzger Nadal. She asks, "If you can enact only one single law or regulation in regard to gun control, what do you believe would be the most effective one?"
Mary, I don't think there's any one law that would be most effective. From the outset I pointed out that this is a complicated issue, and there's a multitask we have here, to keep our children and our society safer. That includes background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who under the law are not entitled to own them, whether they're convicted felons or whether they're fugitives from justice or whether they are people convicted of spousal assault, etc., and people with adjudicated mental illnesses that disqualify them.
Also, there's a need for us to deal with gun safety in the home, it's only rational. Having raised children -- and Mary, if you read Parents Magazine, my guess is you have, or are planning to have, children -- you want to know that guns are kept safely out of reach of children. You keep the cookies on the second shelf so they can't reach in and grab them all the time. People should not be in a position where their children have access to weapons and ammunition.
Thirdly, there is a need for us to make sure that, in my view when talking to police officers, they say they are being outgunned in the street. Something needs to be done [about] these high caliber weapons with magazines that hold multiple, multiple rounds that are referred to quite often as assault weapons. They need help. They are literally outgunned.
We also need to deal with the whole mental health aspect of this issue. Parents who have children and/or people who need help and they know they need some help, are often unable to get it because it's either not affordable or not available to them. There is a probability that some of the god-awful things we've seen could be avoided. For example, there are close to 20,000 people who commit suicide by the use of a gun [every year]. Who knows whether or not if there are greater mental health resources available, a lot of those lives may have been may be saved.
There's also a need for us to see to it that, in addition to background checks, as well as limitations on magazines and assault weapons, and mental health, that we begin to educate the public about physical school safety. When I wrote the Biden Crime Bill in 1994, there was a provision that allowed for school resource officers, and that is to have a sworn officer in a school who would be there [and] available and establish relationships with the children in that school, and gain the confidence of them, so that a child, a student, would feel comfortable saying, "You know, Officer John, when so-and-so opened his locker today, there was the butt of a pistol hanging out of the top of his locker." Or, "There's going to be a drug deal going down in school, behind the school," etc. We've found that those school resource officers were of value in many schools. We haven't been funding them of late. We think they should be funded. We think we should give the local school districts the option of having an armed policeman or an unarmed policeman, or for that matter, if they conclude they'd rather have a counselor in the school, school a psychologist, they could use the money for those purposes.
But there are multiple things that have to be done, none of which are going to solve the whole problem, and all of which, all of which combined will not prevent all, all violent use of weapons illegally in our society.
Thank you. We'll ask you to expand on many pieces of that over the course of the next few minutes. Samantha Phillips asks, "If the ban on drugs did not work with taking them off the street, how do you think a ban on guns is going to be different?"
Well, Samantha, there is no ban on guns. No one's banning the guns. No one's taking my shotguns. I have two shotguns at home and they're in a cabinet, they're locked, there's ammunition there as well. No one's going to come and take my gun. No one's going to take anyone's gun. We're talking about a background check. The analogy to if there was a ban on drugs, how would any regulation of the type of weapon available out there, why would that make sense? --Are you suggesting we just legalize all drugs? Is that what you're suggesting? That would go real well on Parents magazine. Let's talk about everybody being able to no matter what your age, go out and be able to purchase cocaine. What do you think about that idea? Look. These comparisons are not appropriate, quite frankly.
But secondly, the idea that you should have no law unless the law you have prevents all violations of that law -- that is not the way society works. The moral disapprobation of society has an impact on behavior in societies. And the moral disapprobation of the idea that you can leave a loaded gun around your house -- there shouldn't be gun safety practiced by families that own weapons etc. -- is a very important element in seeing to greater gun safety and security for our children.