WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the expected upcoming Senate votes on gun control are only the beginning of the White House's fight.
The fate of gun control legislation is unclear. A vote on a Senate bill, including expanded background checks and harsher penalties for gun trafficking, is expected next month.
The White House also has been pushing for limits on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but those provisions won't be part of the Senate bill. Instead they are to be offered as amendments, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says they don't have enough support to pass.
"That doesn't mean this is the end of the process. This is the beginning of the process," Biden said during a conference call organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns pushing for the gun control measures.
"The American people are way ahead of their political leaders," Biden argued. "And we, the president and I and the mayors, intend to stay current with the American people."
The conference call included thousands of gun control supporters ahead of Thursday's National Day to Demand Action organized by the mayors group and other gun control proponents. Organizers said more than 140 events were scheduled in 29 states, timed to reach lawmakers while they are in their home districts on spring break.
President Barack Obama was planning an event in the White House East Room with mothers who support gun control, victims of violence and law enforcement officials.
Biden says his office is in touch with congressional offices every day, making the case for the legislation in the wake of the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December that killed 20 students and six staff trying to keep the children safe.
"The courage that was demonstrated by those teachers, we don't expect the same amount of courage from our elected officials," Biden said. "But Lord's sake, we do expect them to have the courage to stand up and take responsible action to end this senseless violence."
Biden was optimistic for the fate of the background check provision.
"I think we're on the verge of getting a serious thorough universal background check system in place," Biden said. "And it will, emphasize it will, save lives."
But the White House seems to be acknowledging the assault weapons ban and limit on magazines are not likely to make it. Biden mentioned it as well in the call, repeating that it's just the beginning for the issue for the White House. "We believe that weapons of war have no place on our streets," Biden said.
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that after all the president has pushed for an assault weapons ban, having a vote on an amendment represents progress.
"I can't stand here and guarantee that it's going to pass, but it is a question that 100 senators are going to ask themselves when they wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror about whether or not they are going to — about which side they're going to be on when it comes to voting on a ban on military-style assault weapons," Earnest said. "And the president will certainly continue to advocate for senators to support that ban."