Vice President Joe Biden has spoken and “enough is enough.” 70 days have passed since the Newtown Tragedy and the storm of public and political outrage has not even begun to settle.
The Vice President delivered a keynote address Thursday at a conference on gun violence to a select crowd of the victim’s families, first responders and state representatives. The conference was held at Western Connecticut State University, just 12 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 kindergarteners were murdered last December.
“The purpose of doing this kind of conference,” according to First Selectwoman E. Patricia Llodra, is “to keep the pressure on” so that real legislative change can happen. The continued the debate on gun control ensures citizens and politicians alike “don’t get distracted” and the message does not get lost.
Llodra also commented that Biden “is the right soldier to carry the banner” for the reform movement, given his tremendous experience as a leader and legislator.
Unwavering in his resolve for change, the Vice President called for a number of actions to be taken:
- Universal background checks for every person attempting to purchase firearms
- Limitations on high capacity magazines
- A ban on military style assault weapons
- Comprehensive research not only in the field of mental illness, but also on the influence violent media may have on these shootings.
During his speech Biden appeared frustrated with opponents of increased gun control. “They say it isn’t about guns. They’re wrong. It is about guns,” he said, referring to the “organized opposition.”
Those against the proposals generally argue reform will not be effective in preventing future tragedies either because the problem is cultural and too complex. They also say that limiting access to guns is futile as there are already nearly as many guns as there are people in this country.
These arguments, Biden insisted, are merely serving as “roadblocks” and do not propose actual solutions.
“There is a moral price to pay for inaction,” Biden stated. He went on to recount many of the 1900 gun deaths that have occurred since the tragedy, including 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton from Chicago, who lost her life last month less than a week after singing at President Obama’s inauguration.
“We can not remain silent, we have to speak for all those voices.” Biden insisted, that those who have lost their lives due to gun violence “will be the loudest voices in this debate.”
Biden’s appeal did not stop at reforming gun laws. He noted the structural problems that need to be addressed in the school system and mental health service providers. Among the problems is the stigma of against those who are mentally ill that deters individuals from seeking the treatment they need.
Another obstacle, according to the Biden is that when they do seek treatment “too often insurance companies don’t provide quality services”.
“We’re working to change that,” Biden explained. The Obama administration began this process in 2012 with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has plans for more policies to be enacted in 2013 to expand health-care coverage on the national level. These plans include the Mental Health Parity Act, which will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against patients with varying deductibles for different treatments.
The Vice President also took the time to praise the passion and commitment of the local state leaders present, including first-year senator, Chris Murphy.
In an exclusive interview, when asked about what college students can do, Murphy said, “College students today have to decide whether they want to grow up in a world where every month there is news of a new mass shooting.”
That might be the reality that exists: but what about the future?
The senator was optimistic about the impact the reform movement will have when media coverage inevitably declines: “Newtown changed everything in this country, and that is not going to fade.”
The upcoming months will reveal the legislative fate of the gun violence debate, and if the forceful efforts of Senator Murphy and Vice President Biden will come to fruition.