Gun violence task force to meet with video game industry

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - 2:00am

It was the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that spurred the creation of a federal task force on gun violence, but the headlines since then have shown that the issue stretches beyond any single incident.

The work of the task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, comes at a time when the debate over guns is everywhere.

On the same day that Biden shared some of the recommendations he is likely to make to the president, another school shooting occurred, this one in California. The incident left one student in critical condition.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, a judge ordered James Holmes to stand trial for his role in the movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead and scores injured. Holmes is charged with 166 counts including murder, attempted murder and other charges in the July 20 shooting rampage.

The conversations that the task force is having with stakeholders on all sides -- including the National Rifle Association -- parallel the debates happening at dinner tables and on Facebook news feeds.

That the issue of gun violence has so galvanized the public means that the the task force's recommendations will be in the spotlight, as will whatever President Obama chooses to do with them.

Biden on Friday was meeting with representatives from the video game industry, the makers of violent games that some blame for incidents of gun violence. The vice president was to be joined by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Obama called for the task force after last month's mass shooting in Newtown in which 27 people were killed -- 20 of them elementary school children.

This week Biden revealed that a number of groups have encouraged one policy suggestion: universal background checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase through private sales.

Some states have backlogs of thousands of felons who are never registered on lists aimed at helping prevent dangerous weapons from getting into their hands, he noted.

The Obama administration will also seek a passage of an assault weapons ban as part of a push for new gun control laws, an administration official said Friday. Biden has not mentioned such a proposal in his public remarks so far, but that does not mean it is off the table, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

"The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it's been politically difficult in the past is not an option," he said.

The NRA said it was "disappointed" with a White House task force meeting Thursday, saying it expected mental health, the "marketing of violence to our kids" and school safety to be major topics.

"We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment," the group said in a statement. "While claiming that no policy proposals would be prejudged, this task force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners -- honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans."

CNN has learned the NRA is also preparing an ad campaign, expected to include both print and television advertisements, that will begin soon to help mount its opposition to new gun restrictions.

Since the shooting in Newtown last month, the organization has added 100,000 new members, bringing its total membership to 4.2 million, NRA officials told CNN. Because of the increased attention on the issue, the officials think they will soon hit 5 million.

In another show of support for gun rights, one group is calling for a Gun Appreciation Day on January 19. The group's website calls on Americans to "go to your local gun store, fun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your 'Hands of my guns' sign to send a loud and clear message."

Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, says the event is a response to gun control laws being proposed in the current session of Congress.

But many find the event's timing offensive, as it comes just days before President Obama's inauguration and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"There is selfish, self-serving intent in a Gun Appreciation Day," Maria Roach, whose group United for Change USA began a petition against the event, told CNN. Groups calling on people to show off their guns "are really focused on theater, and not solutions," she said.

Ward had a different interpretation.

"I believe that Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. King," he told CNN's Carol Costello. "I think Martin Luther King would agree with me, if he were alive today, that if African-Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from Day One of the country's founding, perhaps slavery would not have been a chapter in our history."

"That is ridiculous," Roach countered.


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