Biden’s gun task force met with all sides, but kept its eye on the target
By Philip Rucker and Peter Wallsten, Published: January 19
Vice President Biden was curt, avoiding confrontation when he sat down with the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates. He looked across the table in his ornate conference room and asked the NRA official if his group could back a ban on assault weapons.
“No,” was James J. Baker’s reply.
There was little discussion, no real debate over whether a 1990s ban had worked. The two men simply moved on. Biden, leading a task force to study gun violence, was certain of the course of action President Obama would end up taking, and Baker was just as certain that the NRA would work to stop it.
In the 33 days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun control rocketed through what one administration official called “a time warp,” transforming from an issue that was politically off-limits to one at the top of Obama’s agenda.
At the center of the transformation was the Biden-led task force. It held 22 meetings, most of them in the same week and many stretching past two hours, Biden furiously scribbling notes in a black leather-bound spiral notebook. The group collected ideas from 229 organizations — or, as Biden put it in a speech last week, “reviewing just about every idea that had been written up only to gather dust on the shelf of some agency.”