Monday, April 19, 2021
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Is Biden Missing His Chance on Guns?

For the next three decades, he approached the issue with the zeal of a convert. From his earliest days as vice president, he pushed President Barack Obama to do more on guns. After the massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, Mr. Obama tasked Mr. Biden with crafting a package of tough gun control measures — an effort that ended in defeat. Six years later, Mr. Biden went viral comforting the families of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

As president, he’s taking a much lower profile on the issue, focusing far more intently on efforts to pass his relief bill earlier this year and to champion his infrastructure package. It’s a position that extends throughout the administration: A day after the Boulder shooting, Vice President Kamala Harris pressured the Senate to take action, deflecting more than six minutes of questions about what executive actions the president was prepared to take.

“This is going to be about your viewers and all of us pleading to the reason, pleading to the hearts and minds of the people in the U.S. Senate,” she said. “Let’s say, ‘We’re going to hold our elected people accountable if they’re not going to be with us.’”

A few days later, when asked about the issue during a visit to a school in Connecticut, she quickly pivoted from guns to promoting the administration’s relief package.

Behind the scenes, White House advisers have met with gun control advocates and are working on a series of executive orders restricting firearms. They point to $5 billion for community-based violence prevention programs that was tucked into the infrastructure bill, heralding it as a historic investment. But privately, many worry that the White House may be losing the momentum for political action that comes each time the country is yet again horrified by a mass shooting.

They also realize that the period for a new administration to accomplish big legislative goals before the politics of a midterm election take hold is relatively short. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she hopes to pass the infrastructure bill by July 4. There’s also a second part of the legislation that deals with “human infrastructure” policies, like paid family leave and universal pre-K. Some gun control advocates fear that they are being bumped to the back of the line.

“It’s dizzying when you think about where we are and the real time we have. It’s not a lot,” Ms. Brown said. “There is no question the administration is working aggressively on the issue internally, but it needs to be communicated with the same passions externally.”

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