School Shooting Rattles Calif. As Biden Meets With NRA, Gun Group From Newtown
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NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Two people were wounded Thursday in a school shooting in the city of Taft, Calif., according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
The shooting took place at Taft Union High School. The gunman was also a student and was arrested, reported CBSLosAngeles. For more coverage, click here.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation participated in a session with five other groups representing gun owners, including the National Rifle Association.
The meetings were part of a week of discussions the vice president is holding as he prepares to present President Obama with recommendations for curbing gun violence. The task force will make its recommendations to President Obama by Tuesday, Biden announced Thursday.
The trade group is based only a few miles from the scene of the Dec. 14 massacre in which a gunman killed 20 children and six women inside a Newtown elementary school.
A group spokesman, Mike Bazinet, said it is eager to participate in any process that aims to reduce violence.
Biden kept the focus on preventing gun violence as he met with gun rights groups.
“There’s got to be some common ground here,” said Biden.
So far, finding that common ground with the NRA has been difficult. The group’s top lobbyist met with Biden behind closed doors.
The White House is looking to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The NRA rejected the effort to limit ammunition and dug in on its opposition to an assault weapons ban, which Obama has previously said he will propose to Congress.
“The vice president made it clear, made it explicitly clear, that the president had already made up his mind on those issues,” NRA president David Keene said following the meeting. “We made it clear that we disagree with them.”
Opposition from the well-funded and politically powerful NRA underscores the challenges that await the White House if it seeks congressional approval for limiting guns and ammunition. Obama can use his executive powers to act alone on some gun measures, but his options on the proposals opposed by the NRA are limited without Congress’ cooperation.
However, one proposal discussed in the meeting seems to be getting some traction.
“There’s a surprising – so far – a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks,” said Biden following the meeting.
Currently, about 40 percent of all U.S. gun sales do not require a background check.
Marianna Sterne bought her first firearm in a Virginia gun shop, prompted to arm herself following the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn.
“If I have the opportunity to save other people because I’ve been equipped, then I’m going to do it. And if I have the opportunity to save myself, then I’m going to do that as well,” Sterne told CBS 2’s Danielle Nottingham.
Sterne and her friend Milton Bell support background checks for all gun purchases, but say banning weapons will not stop the violence.
“Gun control is not a prescription for the evil of human nature. You can’t legislate bad intentions out of people,” Bell told Nottingham.
The vice president’s task force is looking to gun retailers to help bridge the divide. Several, including Wal-Mart, took part in meetings Thursday.
The NRA said it will turn to members of Congress interested in conversation on what will work and what won’t when it comes to gun safety, the group announced.
Obama has pushed reducing gun violence to the top of his domestic agenda following last month’s massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. The president put Biden in charge of an administration-wide task force and set a late January deadline for proposals.
Richard Feldman, the president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, said all were in agreement on a need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people with mental health issues. But when the conversation turned to broad restrictions on high capacity magazines and assault weapons, Feldman said Biden suggested the president had already made up his mind to seek a ban.
“Is there wiggle room and give?” Feldman said. “I don’t know.”
White House officials said the vice president didn’t expect to win over the NRA and other gun groups on those key issues. But the administration was hoping to soften their opposition in order to rally support from pro-gun lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Biden’s proposals are also expected to include recommendations to address mental health care and violence on television and in movies and video games. Those issues have wide support from gun rights groups and pro-gun lawmakers.
The vice president also met Thursday with representatives from the entertainment industry, including Comcast Corp. and the Motion Picture Association of America. He’ll hold talks Friday with the video game industry.
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has sent the White House 40 steps it says would save lives and dramatically improve enforcement of existing laws without any action by Congress.
Several Cabinet members have also taken on an active role in Biden’s gun violence task force, including Attorney General Eric Holder. He met Thursday with Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest firearms seller, along with other retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The president hopes to announce his administration’s next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term. He has pledged to push for new measures in his State of the Union address.
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