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INT BROLL VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN ADDRESSES THE MAYORS CONFERENCE Thursday, January 17, 2013 TRANSCRIPT: Vice President Joe Biden remarks at the US Conference of Mayors SLUG: 1310 BIDEN MAYORS RS35 80 AR: 16X9 DISC# 401 NYRS: 5102 13:48:10 Biden walk out 13:48:54 Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter introduces Vice President Biden 13:51:31 VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (Applause.) Thank you very much. Please. Please be seated. Thank you all very, very much. It's an honor to be back with you. I'd like to begin by acknowledging two Delawareans are here that are very engaged in this subject as well. One I've known for years and years. He's now our new mayor, Dennis Williams. Dennis, I don't know where you are out there, but welcome to the conference, old buddy. I -- it's great to -- great to have you. And Dennis and I go back to the days when we were writing the crime bill, when Dennis was a police officer in the city of Wilmington. And I also -- the chief law enforcement of Delaware is here, who I've known even longer -- we share the same last name -- the attorney general of the state of Delaware, my son Beau. And I -- I do whatever he says, because he has the power to indict. (Laughter.) 13:52:33 And -- but all kidding aside, I'm a little -- I'm proud of my home state, if you -- (inaudible) -- as we used to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege the progress they're making and the efforts they're making under the leadership of Jack Markell, our governor, on the various subjects you talked about. And I say to Dennis Williams, Mayor Williams -- Dennis, you'll forgive me if occasionally I'm so used to referring to the mayor of Philadelphia as "my mayor" because I spend about half my life in Philadelphia, and now that my granddaughter resides in the city limits, I want to be particularly good. My daughter's also a voter there as well, so I've got to be particularly on good behavior. 13:53:16 Ladies and gentlemen, it's -- it's a pleasure to be back. I look forward to this opportunity every chance I get from the time I was a young fellow new to the United States Senate. It's one of the groups with whom I've had a relationship for a long, long time, and it's always nice to be with a group of people who you agree with on 80 percent of the issues 90 percent of the time, so it's nice to be with you. I know you've come to talk about a broad range of very important, challenging issues that are facing each of your cities and towns: energy, infrastructure, budgets, finances, crime. And I want you to know that we, the president and I -- and the important part of that is the president -- continues to be absolutely committed to do all we can to help the cities deal with the immense problems that get thrust upon them as a consequence of diminished tax bases, as a consequence of housing, the significant portion of the public in their states that are in the most need. 13:54:25 We're committed to having a third phase of the so-called big deal on the budget. We're of the view that just as it took, during the Clinton administration -- it didn't happen in one fell swoop to get our economy in great shape and move toward a balanced budget. It started off -- it was three phases -- started off with President Bush's actions, the first President Bush, in terms of taxation, before President Clinton took office, then the actions the president took in '94 and then in '97. Well, we think there's a third phase here that can set our country on a path that will allow us to get our debt-to-GDP -- our deficit-to-GDP down around 3 percent, which is the basis on which all economists, left, right and center, agree are the areas in which we really can begin to grow as a country. And as my grandfather used to say, with the grace of God and the good will of the neighbors, cooler heads will prevail between now and the time we deal with the debt ceiling, that we may very well be able to meet the goal which we set out to do, which is to have roughly a $4 trillion cut over 10 years in the long-term deficit and to put us on that path. 13:55:54 But I didn't come here to talk about any of those important subjects today, because as important as they all are, today we have a more urgent and immediate call, and that is how to deal within the epidemic of gun violence in America. You all know the statistics better than anyone, so I'm not going to repeat them. On that score, I might add, I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to many of you at the head table as well as those of you in the room. I know -- I know we don't have absolute unanimity in this -- in this ballroom, nor do we in any ballroom. But we all know -- everyone acknowledges we have to -- we have to do something. We have to act. And I hope we all agree there's a need to respond to the carnage on our streets and in our schools. I hope we all agree that mass shootings like the ones that we witnessed in Newtown 34 days ago cannot continue to be tolerated. 13:56:55 That tragedy, in all my years in public life, I think, has affected the public's psyche in a way that I -- I've never seen before. The image of first-graders not only shot but riddled with bullets, parents in the streets panicking, trying to find out if the child they put on the bus in the morning had any prospect of getting back on that bus and going home that afternoon -- for 20 -- for 20 of those parents, the answer was no. And I believe, as I'm sure you do, we have an obligation to respond intelligently and -- to that -- to that crisis. And I know many of you feel the same way. I've had the occasion to talk to a number of you, and I wanted to start by thanking all of you, including Mayor Bloomberg, who is not here today, who I spoke to on the phone before -- (inaudible) -- he called me. Thank you for your input and your insight. Again, we do not all agree on what should be done. But you have obviously, probably more than any group of elected officials, thought about this issue more intently and longer. You've done a great deal of work on this, all of you who deal with the issue every day. I'm not going to ask for a show of hands, but I'll bet if I did, an awful lot of people would put their hands up in this room if I were to say, how many of you mayors have had to attend a funeral of a police officer or an innocent child in a drive-by shooting or a shop-owner in your city? Many of you -- many of you have had to attend -- and some of you many, too many -- such funerals. 13:58:35 Some of you represent communities that experienced mass shootings, not just in schools, but in movie theaters and in temples. And it's not unique to big cities or urban areas, as we now know. It was pure coincidence I happened to be literally -- probably, it turned out, to be a quarter of a mile, back in 2006, at a -- at an outing when I heard gunshots in the woods that we didn't know were -- we thought they were hunters. As I got back to the clubhouse of this outing and saw helicopters, it was a shooting that had just taken place in a small Amish -- oh, excuse me -- a small Amish school just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So it's not just -- it's not just big cities or well-to-do suburbs; it's -- it can happen anywhere. 13:59:31 But I also know that it's -- that it's not just about mass shootings. As my friend Michael (sp) knows and as my mayor Dennis Williams knows in Wilmington, the murder rates in both of our towns are well beyond -- well beyond -- and some of yours well beyond -- what's remotely tolerable for a civilized circumstance. It isn't just about mass shootings; it's about gun violence of all kinds. Think of it this way: Over the last several years, about 25 people die of gun-related homicide in this country every single day, every day, which is the equivalent of the third-most deadly mass shooting in history happening every 24 hours in this country. As much as we intend on making schools the focus and making them more secure, as Mayor -- I know that Rahm is here, but as Mayor Emanuel of Chicago said, the truth is most schools are safe. It's going to and from schools when young people are in the greatest danger. But we don't see that on the news very much anymore. We hear about mass shootings but not everyday gun violence that's ravaging our cities. 14:00:53 I remember my friend -- and he really was my friend. He was -- I always looked to him, even though I was considerably senior to him in seniority -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the finest, brightest guys I've ever known. And when we were trying to get through the -- what was then called the Biden crime bill, and it became the Clinton bill that was what you have all taken great advantage of over the years. We're on the floor debating this issue. And Daniel Patrick Moynihan stood up on the floor, and he said -- and only he could -- he told the story of the Valentine's Day massacre in 1929 and how it shocked the world when seven gangsters were gunned down in cold blood. It made the front page, according to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, of every major paper in the nation and many around the world. But then he said -- and looked up, and he said, but in 1992 when a woman saved her 3-month-old baby from execution by hiding that baby under the bed, but she was shot and killed along with her husband and her teenage son, that story -- and he took out The New York Times -- turned up on the second section, buried in the back of The New York Times. It wasn't front-page news. It was barely news at all. And I'll never forget what he said. He said, I call that defining deviancy down. Defining deviancy down. How it wasn't even news. Of course, if that had happened in 1929, it would have been astonishing. 14:02:42 Well, folks, we can no longer continue to define deviancy down. We can't wait any longer to take action. The time has come. As you know, this week I delivered a set of recommendations to President Obama on how we can better protect Americans from gun violence. I've been getting both credit and blame for that, as if these were original ideas of mine. I want to make it clear what every deputy mayor knows: The only power or influence a vice president has is reflected power. None of it matters, no matter what someone tries to give you credit for leadership, if it were not for the leadership of the president of the United States. This is the president of the United States. I am his agent. But this is the president of the United States. And he asked me to go back -- because I guess -- not guess, I know, because of my years of experience in the Judiciary Committee and dealing with these issues -- he asked me to go back and do as quick a survey as I could, as thorough as I could in a short time frame, and present him with a set of recommendations. I had the incredible help of some really first-rate Cabinet members, starting with our attorney general, our secretary of education, our secretary of homeland security, our secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius. And we met -- we met with a range of 229 groups, representing a wide range of perspectives, from members of the law enforcement community, including many from your cities and states, to gun safety advocates, victims of the shootings both down in Virginia as well as out in Colorado, sportsmen's organizations, hunters, gun owners, the NRA, representatives of the video game and movie industries, educators, retailers and public health officials. And as I said, I spoke to many of you in this room as well, along with the governors and the county executives. 14:04:55 And no group was more consequential or instrumental in the shaping of the document we put together for the president than all of you in this room. Through those conversations with you and other stakeholders, after literally hundreds of hours of work and research done by experts at the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and elsewhere -- after reviewing just about every idea that had been written up only to gather dust on the shelf of some agency in government, a set of principles emerged that there was not universal agreement on but overwhelming consensus on. And they were the foundation of the recommendations. 14:05:44 If -- if you'll permit me about another 10 to 12 minutes, I want to lay out to you what they are from our -- from the perspective of the president and me. The first foundational principle of this -- there is a Second Amendment. The president and I support the Second Amendment. And it comes with the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to own guns, use it for their protection as well as for recreation. The second foundational principle: Certain people in society should not and legally can be disqualified from being able to own a gun because they are unstable or they are dangerous. They are not the citizens that, in fact, the vast majority of gun owners comprise. 14:06:40 Three: There -- we should make common-sense judgments about keeping dangerous weapons off our streets, clearly within the purview of our government, at the same time recognizing, honoring and being compliant with the Second Amendment. And four: This isn't just about guns; it's about the coursing (ph) of our culture. Yes, that's what I said, the coursing (ph) of our culture, whether it's with video games or movies or behavior. It's about the ability to access mental health services and the safety of our schools. It's a very complex problem, and it requires a complex solution. Based on these principles and the input of a vast array of groups and experts, we put together a comprehensive plan based on a common-sense approach where I believe, from heading up this group, there really is overwhelming consensus. There are disagreements in degree with a consensus on the principles that I've laid out. We asked a number of questions. 14:08:07 And by the way, we recognize how different all our states and cities are, how different the gun culture is, a healthy gun culture in rural America than in urban America, how different the gun culture is in states which are -- my little state of Delaware -- most of you probably won't realize it -- we have one of the highest per capita gun ownerships of hunters in America because of duck hunting, because of all those magnificent tributaries that go from the Delaware Bay to the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River and the various rivers that flow into the bay. It's a paradise for hunters. It's a big business as well as a -- as an institutional -- it is cultural. I remember a woman named Ms. Anne Messey (ph) from down in Kenton, Delaware, one of the reasons I got elected as a 29-year-old kid to the Senate, saying, now, Joey -- talked at me like this -- and Dennis (sp) may remember Ms. Anne Messey (ph) -- said, I want to show you something that my daddy gave me. This is a woman who was 78 years old. She walks out in the backyard, says, you know, it is -- it is duck season now right now -- I mean, I -- goose season. She says, you know that, so don't get mad. She walks into her den and takes a shotgun off over the fireplace -- this woman, almost 80 years old -- and walks out, and she said, my daddy told me how to steady aim, and I -- (inaudible) -- boom! (Chuckles.) Now, if you did that in -- you know, in the Upper East Side of -- you know, of Manhattan, we got a problem. (Laughter.) But it's really important, by the way, because some of you who share very strong feelings about gun control -- I think it's important to understand it's part of the ethic of where a lot of us come from. But it's not this culture, the recognition of the differences in the cultural behavior and attitudes, from Arizona to -- to -- to New Jersey, although South Jersey, it's a big deal too, hunting. 14:10:04 But my generic point here is, recognizing those differences doesn't in any way negate the rational prospect of being able to come up with common-sense approaches how to deal with the myriad of problems that relate to gun ownership -- who has that gun. So we asked a number of questions. The first question we asked is, who should be prohibited and who can legally be prohibited from owning a gun? Current law has evolved over time, and we have -- we've considered the question. My senior year in 1968 graduating was an incredible year. The only political (hero ?) I ever had, Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated two days before I walked across the stage on graduation. Dr. King, the guy who got me engaged in politics, as Dennis and others in Delaware will tell you, was assassinated earlier in that year. Even had the assassination attempt at George Wallace. When I look back on '68, it's a wonder things held together, quite frankly. Well, the Congress passed what was then called the Gun Control Act. And among other things, it said that felons, fugitives, drug users, those who had been adjudicated -- and it's not a politically correct phrase now, but it's in the law -- those who'd been adjudicated mentally defective -- is what the law says -- could not lawfully own a gun. And then in 1994, as the world changed and the country changed, along with the thing I'm proudest of having written and passed, the Violence Against women Act, we added a new category of people who were prohibited from purchasing a gun, based on facts, not based on fiction, not based on prejudice, and that is those who had a restraining order issued against them in a domestic violence incident. 14:12:04 That was a fight to get that added. Then two years later we expanded the list again to include anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violent crime because there was some history that that -- are the most likely people to do something that would not be -- go beyond tort. Time and experience has demonstrated that we should continue to take a close look at the list to see if it fits the needs of society at the moment. As part of our recommendations to the president, I suggested that the president direct the attorney general to study that question. Should any other people be added to the prohibitive category? Should we look at a variety of categories? For example, right now certain convicted stalkers can still purchase guns. People with outstanding warrants of capias out of the Philadelphia court, as long as you don't cross the line into Delaware, they can go get a gun. They cross the line into Delaware, then it's a fugitive warrant -- they're outside the jurisdiction. People who have been convicted of misdemeanors for abusing their children are now prohibited -- added to the list. But as all of you know, you deal with it every day, there is parental abuse for elderly parents. Should they be prohibited? I'm not making a judgment, but I am convinced that we have to look at whether or not the prohibitive category should be expanded. 14:13:27 The most delicate area is in the mental health area, which requires a great deal of study, and ironically, this is where you find the pro-gun guys more inclined to prohibit more and the anti-gun guys inclined to say, no, no, no, it's privacy. But it have -- we have to look at it. We have to address it. This is a few of the potential categories the president asked the attorney general to look at. But there's a second issue involved here. And all of you know it. We have a thing called NICS. And that is the NICS system is in place in Washington, D.C. It runs the background checks on people before they can buy guns if they're in that prohibited class. And it's a little bit like -- if you ever bought a gun -- I -- I purchased two -- I have two shotguns, a 20-gauge and a 12-gauge shotgun. I -- you know, you go and you get a background check. And it's a little bit like swiping your credit card, in effect. It takes about that long. But just like when you check out your credit card, if the bank doesn't have on record exactly what you have in that account or not in that account, you got a problem. Well, it's only as good as the information available, that NIC system. And right now, the information being put into that national system is woefully incomplete. States are supposed to make mental health records available for people who can't have guns, for example, but today, there are 17 states that have made fewer than 10 -- 10, T- E-N -- 10 mental health records available on background -- on the background check system -- 10. There are tens of thousands of felons, the estimate is, who have convicted in your cities and your states that information never transmitted to the NIC system. 14:15:20 So we recommended to the president that he redirect, because no one knows for sure whether or not it's an ideological judgment governors are making not sending the material, or is it an economic issue? So we asked the president to redirect $20 million to the states to help them update those records and make them available. He's decided the Justice Department should do just that. But money only goes so far. A lot has to do with leadership. Again, I apologize for being parochial -- I guess I'll always be a Senate guy and a Delaware guy -- but I'm very proud of my home state. Because of the leadership of our governor, Jack Markell, with some help from a kid that I know pretty well, who's the attorney general, Delaware has moved from one of the worst-performing states to one of the best-performing states as a consequence, at least as rated by the Mayors Against Gun Violence -- it's about leadership. It's about making the decision to make this available. I know you folks have a lot of influence in your states. (Chuckles.) Well, that's not quite true. (Laughter.) I have a bad habit of being straightforward, so the truth is you don't have nearly as much influence as you should have on your states, not because of you, but because of the way states work. But all kidding aside, I would ask you to continue to push, push your legislators, push the governors to make these records available. And again, I'm not suggesting there's any nefarious reason why it's not being done, but it's not done. It's not done. 14:17:00 And I'd also ask you to think about whether or not we should consider making the record-sharing mandatory as a matter of law, or do you think the idea I've proposed to the president of incentivizing states to provide the information is enough? We'd like to hear from you on that. And I will say one of the things we've learned is that the federal government hasn't been doing a very good job in the last 10 years either about sharing information available. So on my recommendation, the president issued a directive -- one of the executive orders that everybody got up in arms about, like he was going to rewrite the Constitution or something -- he -- one of the executive orders, he directed every federal agency to make sure that we, the federal government, live up to our end of the bargain to share all relevant information within the lawful possession of the federal government to that system if it contained people who should be disqualified as a matter of law. But once you figure out all those pieces, there's a still another, broader point: that a system that identifies people who should not -- not only can't as a matter of law, but should not -- possess guns only works if it actually prohibits those people from purchasing those guns. 14:18:23 And so that's why we need, and have recommended to the president, universal background checks. Studies show -- (applause) -- studies show that up to 40 percent of the people -- and there's no -- let me be honest with you again, which I'll get to in a minute. But because of the lack of the ability of federal agencies to be able to even keep records, we're not -- we can't say with absolute certainty what I'm about to say is correct. But the consensus is about 40 percent of the people who buy guns today do so outside the NICS system, outside the background check system. Right now if someone purchases a gun from a licensed dealer, he's required to undergo this background check, which takes a matter of minutes. But he can buy that exact same gun from a private seller with no background check at all. That has to change. Think about it. 14:19:23 It's like an airport. Imagine you get to the airport and there are two lines for security. One of them, you have to go through the metal detector, empty your pockets, take off your shoes, and the other one, you can go straight through to the plane. Where are you going to go -- (laughter) -- especially if you're carrying something you're not supposed to? Which line do you think the terrorist picks? Well, the same thing about gun sales. Why would a criminal buy a gun at a store, where he's required to go through a background check, or at a gun show from a licensed dealer, where he's required to go through the background check, when he can buy a gun from the guy the next desk over, who sometimes has a sign above saying "No Background Check Required"? I won't get into the detail of why that's the case, because it's the definition of what constitutes a gun-seller, not only for profit but how frequently you engage in a -- I won't go through all that. So why wouldn't we do everything in our power to stop that? Whose rights being infringed on? The lawful citizen, the guy who has nothing to hide or woman has nothing to hide, he goes through the system, virtually no complaints. And even with an incomplete system, there have been almost 2 million convicted felons, adjudicated mentally incompetent and the rest of the categories I've just mentioned, denied the ability to legally buy a gun. 14:21:01 So it makes no sense to me, especially since when I wrote the original assault weapons ban, there was a 12-day waiting period, then a six-day waiting period. And then the NRA said something that I agreed with. They said, look, we won't object if you can do this quickly. So we invested a lot of time and money and effort in setting up this system. And by the way, I want to sell you my 12-gauge shotgun, which hasn't been used much lately -- (chuckles) -- I want to sell you my shotgun, Mr. Mayor, in my home. It's not a big deal for you and I to say, look, we got to take another 20 minutes to go to Dick's Sporting Goods here and they'll run the check for us. We pay them 10 (dollars) to $12 and the check's done. It is an inconvenience, but it's not an inconvenience relative to the potential hole it may plug in the system. And we can make exceptions. If I want to leave my guns to my son Beau, who knows how to use them better than I -- he's a better shot than I am; that's because he's a major in the Army, I guess, but my son Hunter's better too -- well, we may be able to write exceptions into handing down guns or giving guns to family members that -- your own gun. But there's no reason why we can't significantly broaden this to try to pick up that pool of roughly 40 percent of the people who buy a gun without any background check. The third question we ask is, what kinds of guns should be kept off our streets? Now, some purists in either ends will say, wait a minute, you can take any gun off the street -- not true, in my view, under the Second Amendment -- and others will say, you have no right to take anything off the street, because as Jefferson said, the tree of liberty is water with the blood of patriots, and -- not a lot of context, but you hear it all the time. Well, guess what? No one doubts you're able to tell someone, even if you're a billionaire, you can't go buy an M1 tank with ordnance. You're not -- I'm being deadly earnest, you know. You can't have a flamethrower. You can't -- you go -- so it's been established there are -- there is the ability to have legitimate limitations on the type of weapon that can be purchased. 14:23:13 Toward that end, we looked at two issues, the definition of assault weapon and high-capacity magazines. And the president -- the president believes -- I was going to say president -- (inaudible) -- what he believes -- the president believes that there should be -- and I agree with him -- new and stronger assault weapons ban. And I know, as well as anyone, having written the first assault weapons ban, that the industry will do whatever it can to get around it, and they'll figure out a way. We can define the stock, the scope, we can do a lot of things, but it's -- it can get around. But I also know we have to try or believe we have to try. But what I also know is that assault rifles aren't the only kind of gun that can accommodate high-capacity magazine. Some of you are deer hunters, bear hunters, big game hunters. 14:24:08 I'm not being facetious; I'm being literal. And you know most of the weapons used -- rifles used in that endeavor can take clips that can accommodate 30, 40, 50. You don't, but they can accommodate it. So we recognize that the weapon of choice in your town also is not a rifle. The weapon of choice and the vast majority of people are killed with a handgun. But you can put an awful lot of rounds in a Glock and a lot of other handgun weapons. So we're calling for the prohibition of high-capacity magazines altogether. We can argue whether or not we're right at 10 or 12 or seven or nine or 15, but we know it makes no sense. Like we've learned since Columbine and Aurora and Newtown, police reach the scene in no time. You all have done incredible jobs -- I mean it sincerely, I'm not being solicitous -- local officials have done incredible jobs in reducing the response times of the response by your police officers to crises. But high-capacity magazines leave victims with no chance and all too often leave police outgunned as well. In Aurora, the assailant had a 100-clip magazine. Now, had it not -- had his weapon not jammed, God knows how many more people would have been killed. 14:25:39 I met with -- with Gabby Giffords' husband, a national hero in his own right, Mark, the other day, and he was pointing out to me when Gabby was shot -- you know this better than I do, about Arizona -- when Gabby was shot, but for the fact when the assailant had to put in a new clip and he fumbled putting the new clip in, and a woman reached out and -- jumped out and grabbed him, prevented him from putting a new clip in, the new congressman, who was injured and shot with Gabby, probably would not have been around to tell the story. So in Newtown, some of those children were riddled with as many -- it's hard to even say it -- 11 bullet holes, in a first-grader. High-capacity magazines, in our view, are not worth the risk. And the notion -- (applause) -- high-capacity magazines don't have a practical sporting purpose or hunting purpose. 14:26:53 As one hunter told me, if you got 12 rounds -- you got 12 rounds, it means you've already missed the deer 11 times. (Laughter.) You should pack the sucker in at that point. (Laughter.) You don't deserve to have a gun, period, if you're that bad. (Laughter.) But seriously, think about it. Now, you'll hear -- those of you who will agree with me, say -- be prepared to say, well, look, for sporting, at gun ranges -- it makes sense. Well, I don't know why we can't say that -- that, you know, those weapons should be kept at the range, if that's what they're for. I mean, decide -- not pass a law, but make that judgment independently, without in any way impacting on your sporting enjoyment. 14:27:41 The next question we ask is how do we make our streets and schools safer. With regard to our streets, I believe and the president believes that cops make a difference. I remember when I first wrote the COPS bill, hundred thousand cops (street ?) -- I was told we tried that -- we never tried that before. (Applause.) We never tried that before. And since -- no, no, you -- I should be clapping for you all because it passed, and you made it work. You made community policing work. Crime and violent crime went down because of you, the way you employed those additional police officers. That's why it went down. That's why it happened. And we still think, particularly in these economic difficult times for you all in municipalities, we want to provide state and local governments with the resources they need to keep cops on the street -- (applause) -- even during the hard economic time. (Sustained applause.) 14:28:39 And by the way, some of you smiled at me when -- when -- when Mike (sp) said -- Michael (sp) said, and Joe's going to make sure that these programs go, you know -- go directly to the cities. And I went like that. Well, you know, I tried that with the Recovery Act, and it didn't work, but I tried it with COPS and it worked -- COPS it worked. (Applause.) That's how it should work. But here's the deal: If you don't think you should find yourselves in the position of having to cut funding for law enforcement in order to pay for some other essential service, we think that you'd agree with us that we're going to come back at it again, and we've gone through OMB; we're going to push again for another $4 billion in grants in the COPS program. (Cheers, applause.) 14:29:22 Now -- (sustained cheers, applause) -- it's important, but here's the deal. (Sustained cheers, applause.) Thank you. I don't want anybody confusing that with the argument that every school in America should have armed guards and armed teachers and armed principals and the like. In the original COPS bill as I wrote it, as we wrote it, there was a provision for school resource officers. Now, I admit to you when I wrote it in the first time, I wasn't thinking of mass shootings. But what I was thinking about was the same principle as community policing. The reason why community policing worked is you get your local law enforcement officers acquainted with and accommodated in the neighborhood where they build trust. And so Mrs. Jones (sp) in the corner, who is watching that drug deal go down every night and seeing shootings and having her window blown out a couple times -- she's not going to pick up the phone and cold call City Hall. She's afraid. But if she's gotten a relationship with the local cop, she'll say, Charlie (sp), don't tell -- don't say me, but let me tell you what's happening on my corner. Well, the same thing happened with school resource officers, because what happens is they stand in a school, armed or unarmed, uniformed, and guess what? The kids get to know them, and they think it's cool talking to them, and they get to -- it's like talking to your coach. And what we found out -- kids say things like, John (sp), when I opened my locker this morning, three lockers down, 47, there was a handle of a gun sticking out. And John (sp), I don't -- don't say anything, but there's a drug deal going to go back -- going to go down in the back of the gym today, or, John (sp), there's going to be a rumble and da da da. That's why they work. 14:31:18 Well, here's what we're going to do -- we're going to propose. We think -- we believe school resource officing (sic) will play an important role but that you should have significantly more flexibility in how to us them. That's why we're proposing a new school safety program that funds officers but also gives your communities the flexibility to apply for other support. So a school resource officer is going to cost you X thousands of dollars a year, with the money the federal government's putting up. You can say, now, we'd rather have a school psychologist, or we want a school resource officer who's unarmed. But what we don't want, the president and I -- we don't want rent-a-cops in schools armed. We don't want people in schools who aren't trained like police officers. (Applause.) And we're not even insisting schools use police officers for that if they conclude they need a school psychiatrist versus a school resource officer; you can apply for the funding that would otherwise come from that for that purpose. We also make sure that every school has a reliable emergency response plan. I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say this, you have no idea how many -- literally, school districts of all across the country and in your states have picked the phone and called my office and said, can you tell us what the best plan is if something like this happens? The Department of Education's been inundated. So one of the few things that the federal government historically can do well since we have more resources is figure out what best practices are by going all around the country taking the information we have from you all, deciding what best practices are and saying when -- and then going out and saying, look, Congress has funded the creation of these plans; school districts who want to take advantage of them, here they are, here is what we found worked in rural areas, urban areas, whatever. But we're asking the Congress to fund -- to fund safety implementation programs. 14:33:25 The next question that we asked was, how can we improve access to mental health services so the people get the help they need before it's too late? We looked at the circumstances when people age out of Medicaid. You know it's happening in your cities. And you got these kids (getting ?) mental health services, all of a sudden they age out, and there's nothing there. There's nothing they can do. The social worker or -- social worker like my daughter, who -- she worked for the state, now she works for a -- a -- a -- a -- for a nonprofit -- but all of sudden, Dad, what are we going to do? This kid still needs help. He's aged out. We're calling on Congress to help those who deal with children every day to look for the warning signs that refer kids to treatment. It turns out that three-quarters of all mental illness appears by age 24, but less than half the children with diagnosable mental health problems ever receive any treatment. We need to change that. And I'm proud to say we're already positioned, better than we have in the history of the country, to make great progress in this because of the Affordable Care Act -- (applause) -- it fully kicks in next year -- and -- and because of the leadership of Republican Senator Domenici and Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy on mental health parity. We've got to get this nation to the point -- and that's where we're going to speak to this in a second -- where in fact a mental -- a mental health problem receives the same credibility and coverage with a -- with -- with a physician or psychiatrist as somebody who breaks their arm. And by the way, parenthetically -- (applause) -- parenthetically, as my son, who's an Iraq veteran can tell you -- as attorney general, he's -- he's had to deal with this -- we got a lot of women and men coming home with invisible injuries. 14:35:22 We have over 40,000 visible injuries. Over 19,000 are going to require help the rest of their lives. I spent -- my wife and I spent all last night at Walter Reed, meeting with the -- the only good news is, the number of amputees that are on floor now is down -- spending the whole night with these kids who are double amputees, some triple amputees. But there's another category of people -- we don't know the number, but we know it's significant -- with traumatic brain injury, the invisible disease, the invisible wound, with post-traumatic stress. Beau would be mad at me if I gave an example of a case he has to deal with because I don't know -- but you know, there's a lot of veterans coming home having trouble. Suicide rate is astounding -- almost one a day, almost one a day -- because there's not sufficient mental health capacity in the system. And we're doing everything to go out and hire 78,000 new folks for VA and the like. But the point is we've got to deal with this. And so the question -- the question we asked was how, how to do that, and that's going to take more time, but we have concrete answers we'll make available to you, what we think, how to begin this process. 14:36:45 And the next question, folks, we asked was: How do you prevent gun trafficking, the bane of the existence of seven of the biggest cities in America and a lot of other people? And it starts with the obvious proposition: creating a federal drug -- excuse me -- a federal trafficking statute for guns. We have one for drugs, but there is none for -- there is no federal trafficking statute. (Applause.) As you all pointed out to us, a substantial percentage of the gun crimes committed in your towns are committed with weapons purchased outside your state or your city. In Illinois, for example, 47 percent of the guns recovered at crime scenes were purchased outside the state. In New York, it's 68 percent. The only way to stop this is with a federal trafficking statute. So we recommend to the president that he call on Congress to pass a statute, and he agreed. Some of those guns are bought by straw purchasers, people who pass the required background checks to buy weapons for others. Maybe they give them to a middleman who transport them from Florida to New York or from -- whether it's one state to another, but there isn't an explicit law against straw purchasing. And -- so straw purchasers and others who trafficking guns are often out of the prosecuted patchwork and paperwork, and the only way you pick them up is they make a paperwork violation. And you know as well as I do how many guns are unaccounted for because they were straw purchased. We need strong federal laws that help us attack the entire trafficking network. 14:38:24 And finally -- and I know I've taken a long time, but this is something so many of you have spent a lot of time talking to me about, and I wanted to give it to you straight here -- we asked what can we do better about understanding gun violence. As some of you know, when he crime bill I authored in '94 expired, including the assault weapons ban, in 2004, one of the things we were able to do back then, in '94, was write legislation that allowed us to gather a considerable amount of information. The CDC was able to -- the Center(s) for Disease Control -- was able to conduct research on gun violence so we could figure out some basic things about its causes and its uses. Well, not only did the Congress not renew the assault weapons ban in 2004, it also put significant impediments on federal agencies who were doing basic research, and explicitly prohibited CDC -- the Center(s) for Disease Control is prohibited by federal law from doing any research. And there's a whole -- there's a whole set of amendments that were added called the treeheart (ph) amendments that further constrain the ability to gather data. We need answers to a lot of questions. We need better understanding of the causes. We need longer-term independent studies to determine, for example, not only the impact of guns and how people die and what type of guns and so on and so forth; we need studies -- and this is where the entertainment industry doesn't like me at all -- we need studies on what are the impacts on young minds of witnessing repetitive violent acts either in movies or on television or in video games? (Applause.) 14:40:18 That's not -- that's not an indictment of the industry. It's a recognition we have no extensive modern studies on these things. It's worth pointing out, from my conversations with these industries, they seem intent on doing what they can do to help. They've got a rating system, parental controls and other tools that the vast majority of Americans don't even know -- I don't know if you know. If you have infinity (sic), you can go on, if your grandchild or child watches those early morning cartoons on Saturday that have excessive violence in them -- they're just cartoons, right? You can actually program your television to take out extreme violent, moderate violence, violence. You can do it now. Ninety percent of the parents, I don't think, have any idea of that. So one of the things I said is they should be going on a major advertising campaign to let people know. But quite frankly, we don't have sufficient data. And it seems to me, as an informed society, we need data. So the president signed a directive that allows the CDC to begin gathering that information again. And I think that's a very important step. 14:41:22 So let me conclude by saying, once again, thank you. Thank you for not only all you did to contribute to this -- this report, but thank you for allowing me the opportunity to come and be as explicit and long and hopefully not, but possibly boring in laying out to you the elements of what we believe we have to look at. And let me acknowledge the truth: that too many in this country have been silent too long. We cannot -- (cheers, applause) -- we cannot -- we cannot be silent any longer. Those 20 beautiful childrens (sic) who lost their lives in Newtown are no longer able to speak for themselves. We have to speak for them. Nine hundred people who lost their lives on the city streets of your cities to gun violence since Newtown 33 days ago -- four, now, I guess it is -- are not able to speak for themselves. We got to speak for them. Those more than 9,000 lives lost to gun violence in our cities each year are no longer able to speak for themselves. Somebody's got to speak for them. And there are some who say the most powerful voice in this debate belongs to the gun lobbies and those that demand the stop to these common-sense approaches to save lives. I think they're wrong. This time -- this time will not be like times that have come before. Newtown has shocked the nation. The carnage on our streets is no longer able to be ignored. 14:43:06 We're going to take this fight to the halls of Congress. We're going to take it beyond that. We're going to take it to the American people. We're going to go around the country making our case, and we're going to let the voices -- the voice of the American people be heard. And we will be criticized, because people say if we're spending that much energy, we're not spending enough energy on immigration, we're not spending enough energy on the fiscal problem, we're not spending -- look, folks: Presidents don't get to choose what they do. They deal with what is before them and then what they'd like to long-term. All these things interrelate. I once asked former Mayor Daley of Chicago, I said, back in the -- I guess early '90s, said, Mayor, if there's anything I can do for you, what would you do? He said, get rid of the drug problem; it would save -- it would -- it would transform the economy of my city overnight. 14:44:07 Well, gun violence falls in a similar category. If we speak for those we lost, if we speak for our children and our families, if we have the courage to do what we know is the right thing to do, then -- then we'll have the most powerful voice. And we, you, our citizens will change the nation. I've been in this fight a long time. I have no illusions about the fight that's in front of us. I have no illusions about distortions that will come from all sides. But I know full well the political obstacles that will be thrown up against us are not impenetrable. I have no illusions about how hard it's going to be, but I know this: We have no choice. We will not be able to look our kids and our grandkids in the eye if we don't use every energy, every -- every bit of energy, every fiber in our being to try to keep them safer. We'll not be worthy of the generation that's going to grow up now without those 20 innocent kids and those thousands of people already lost. We'll not be able to stop every act of senseless gun violence or any other kind of violence, we know that, in the future. But that's no excuse to do nothing. That is not an excuse to do nothing. As the president said, if we can save even one life, it's worth it. 14:45:40 I believe together we can save a whole lot more lives than that, and I think we can begin again, not because of guns alone, but I think we can begin an endeavor that stops the coursing (sic) of American culture and society. I think we can begin to turn this around. It's not all because of guns. It's a lot of other things. But maybe what happened in Newtown is a call to action about more than just gun violence, about civility in our society. I thank you all. You all are on the front lines. May God bless you, and may God bless the memory of the victims of Newtown and all those others who've fallen as a consequence of this senseless violence. And thank you for your -- for your time. (Applause.) 14:46:59 Biden exits The U.S. Conference of Mayors holds it's winter meeting in Washington, D.C., where they hear from Vice President Biden at their Opening Plenary Luncheon. He began with brief remarks on the U.S. economy, and the spent the bulk of his speech addressing the President's plan for gun violence prevention, which the President laid out in a speech at the White House on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the mayors, led by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, held a press conference to outline their agenda for the meeting. While in Washington, the mayors are holding meetings with Congressional and Administration officials to urge action on a wide variety of issues, including the federal deficit, the economy, guns and school safety.
Archived Unity File