Joe Biden on Shotguns, Safeguards, and Smart Parenting

'You Don't Have to Amend the Second Amendment'

The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment

Let's talk for a minute about the Second Amendment. We got a lot of questions about that, and Laura Garza posted an opinion that was echoed by a lot of people who wrote to us, and I want to ask you to respond to what she said. She writes, "The banning of any type of gun is an infringement on the Second Amendment. Criminals obviously don't abide by laws and can illegally purchase assault rifles. I want to keep my right to purchase such weaponry if I choose to do so."

Well, how can I say this politely? The law does, the constitution does allow the government to conclude that there are certain types of weapons that no one can legally own. Now, if that were not the case, then you should be able to go buy a flamethrower that the military has. You should be able go, if you're a billionaire, buy an F-15 loaded with ordinates. You should be able to buy an M1 tank. You should be able to buy a machine gun. You should be able to buy a grenade launcher. And you can't do those things.

So if you acknowledge that it's within the scope of the government for public safety under the Second Amendment to limit the certain types of weapons you cannot possess, then the question comes down to, what is the effect on your individual right to own a weapon if the government says there are certain weapons that are characterized -- and the police are concerned about them -- called assault weapons that can fire 30 rounds of high-caliber bullets and have the features of folding stock, they have the features of an assault weapon used by the military? If there isn't any question that, constitutionally, the federal government and the state government can outlaw certain types of weapons.

Now the question is, what is the balance between you being able to have the right to defend yourself and the right to engage in sporting activities that, in fact, are totally legitimate and legal, and the kind of weapon that is outlawed? The fact of the matter is that, those AR-15's for example, like the weapon used by the young man to kill those 20 innocent, beautiful, little babies up in Newtown, that weapon is not necessary for your self defense. You could defend yourself as easily if you had a weapon that had 10 rounds in it instead of 20 or 30 -- whatever number [will become the legal limit under the Obama Administration proposals] has not been made public yet, but multiple, multiple, multiple rounds. You can also defend yourself, and nobody goes out. Most sportsmen don't have a magazine with 30 rounds in it when they go deer hunting. As one sportsman said to me, if you can't get the deer in the second or third shot, you shouldn't be out there hunting deer.

So the question is, what's the balance? What can we do that would not prevent you from having exercising every right you have to defend yourself, and at the same time engage in recreation or hunting or sporting activities that would not be limited by the elimination of that particular weapon? That's the balance. We can argue about where that balance is, but there isn't any argument that the government can, in fact, impact on that balance.

On the other hand, Rob Floyd asks, "Is there some way we can amend the Second Amendment and bring it into modern times? These assault weapons and oversized ammo clips have only one purpose: rapid-fire killing."

You don't have to amend the Second Amendment to be able to eliminate assault weapons and limit the number of shells, of bullets in a magazine, a clip. And I don't think we should amend the Second Amendment.

Will Gun Laws Work?
Will Gun Laws Work?

Many of our users asked about the example set by Chicago and Connecticut where they do have some strict gun laws. Jessica Forgue Popow writes, "Chicago has the strictest gun control laws in the country and is among the nations leaders in murders and gun violence. Please explain how stricter gun control will prevent gun violence."

No one city can be an oasis in the middle of the desert. In the major cities of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, most of the guns recovered at a crime scene are those weapons that have come from Indiana or Pennsylvania or wherever, not the city and not the state in which they have the strict gun laws. And that's why there's a need for some universal sanity in the type of weapon that can be sold, and the need for universal background checks. And that's the rationale.

But the city of New York, I forget the number, but more than half of the guns recovered at the [crime] scenes, none of them are purchased in New York and very few are from the state of New York. They are from Florida and Alabama and other places around the country. And the same thing exists in Chicago or Los Angeles or any other major cities in America.

School Safety
School Safety

Let's talk a little bit more about school safety. Claire Farish Brimmer asks, "Does it make sense to provide armed guards for our schools, like those that are provided for government buildings?" You talked a little bit about this before, but I'd like to hear a little bit more about this issue.

The answer is, Claire, I think not, and let me tell you why. Speaking of Chicago, the mayor of Chicago had a great line. He said, "Our schools are some of the safest places in the world for our children. The dangerous place is walking to and from school." So the vast majority of schools in America are safe. Doesn't mean any one public place is immune from a mass murderer deciding they're going to use that venue to engage in mass murder with an assault weapon or a weapon that has multiple rounds that they can fire and continue to re-fire by just dropping a new clip in with 10, 20, 30, 40 bullets in it.

Now, what I do think is, I do think there are ways we can make schools safer. One of the things you've got to ask?if you read Parents magazine, again I'm assuming you're a parent or a grandparent or you're about to be a parent -- and that is, Do you want your child walking into a circumstance where everything about the circumstances says, 'I feel unsafe?' Do you want your child to have to walk through a metal detector? Do you want your child to have to walk in a classroom with armed guards? That is not -- that's like a siege mentality.

Schools should be a place where kids are at ease and they can flourish and they can feel safe. And the issue of whether or not you have a school resource officer in the school who gets to know the students in that school, who is engaging with them, that's a judgment for a locality to make, a local school district, a local school. But the idea of having essentially a situation where you go through a metal detector, where you're frisked, where you have to take your shoes off, where you're in a position where you have to empty your knapsack, your backpack, or your books -- that is not an environment I think most people who read Parents magazine would want their children to have to go through.

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