Biden invokes families of gun violence victims to pressure Congress on reform

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

UPDATED 3:55 p.m. ET

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday invoked recent mass shooting tragedies in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and elsewhere to deliver an emotional public plea to Senate Republicans to support legislation and at least permit votes on bills that backers say would reduce gun violence.

"What are you going to say to those parents?" Biden asked at a White House event, noting parents who recently lost loved ones to gun violence. "Look them in the eye and tell them you concluded there's nothing you can do?"

Biden, speaking to an audience of law enforcement officers from around the country as part of the administration's efforts this week to pressure Congress on gun legislation, revealed during his remarks that he had shared breakfast with families who lost loved ones in December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The families flew to Washington with President Barack Obama Monday on Air Force One.

Twenty children and six school personnel were killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook, prompting the president to call for new gun restrictions.

At Monday's breakfast, Biden said that one parent whose child was "shot through the heart while hiding in the bathroom," openly questioned why some members of Congress oppose gun reform. "Don't they understand?" Biden said the parent asked.

Even the sight of soccer balls on the vice president's lawn brought back painful memories of the children killed in the Dec. 14 incident, Biden said. "What has to happen to break through the consciousness of people up on the Hill?"

Tuesday's event, timed to pressure Congress on gun legislation as lawmakers return to Washington from a two-week recess, was filled with emotional anecdotes.

Biden spoke of the "hollow" faces of troopers in the wake of Newtown tragedy. Holder noted the "dried blood" on the school. They shared stories from family members and retold scenes from Newtown.

Biden noted the various Democratic-sponsored bills that have been proposed, including bills that would close background check loopholes, work to stem gun trafficking, ban assault weapons and ban high-capacity magazines. He encouraged members of Congress to support these measures and issued strong warnings to Republican members of the Senate who have suggested they will filibuster and prevent these measures from being voted upon.

"Now it's time for every man and woman in the Senate to stand up and say 'yea' or 'nay,' 'I'm for' or 'I'm against.' It's time for them to say what they think should or should not be done to diminish the possibility of another Sandy Hook or reduce the number of dead over the next 113 days," Biden said, noting the number of days since Newtown.

The vice president's remarks followed a speech on gun violence made by Obama on Monday night at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where he addressed the Newtown shooting.

In his speech, Obama encouraged those gathered at the university as well as the general public to call on lawmakers to give gun control legislation a vote in Congress and support what the White House calls "common-sense" measures to reduce violence.

"If you’re an American who wants to do something to prevent more families from knowing the immeasurable anguish that these families here have known, then we have to act. Now is the time to get engaged. Now is the time to get involved. Now is the time to push back on fear, and frustration and misinformation. Now is the time for everybody to make their voices heard from every statehouse to the corridors of Congress," Obama said.

First lady Michelle Obama is traveling to Chicago on Wednesday to speak about gun violence, and Biden will participate in a gun roundtable Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."