Biden urges action on gun violence
Ross MacDonald works on digitising the thousands of letters written in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings. Photograph: Christopher Capozziello/The New York Times
US vice president Joe Biden has urged fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives to comply with public demands for action to reduce gun violence.
It is unclear which, if any, of Mr Biden's gun-control recommendations Congress might approve, but the vice president said legislators have an obligation to do as much as they can.
"I don't want to hear about 'well we can't take it on because it's too politically dangerous,'" Mr Biden told House Democrats at the opening of a three-day retreat yesterday.
"There's an overwhelming consensus about the need to act."
The politically powerful gun rights lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, opposes Mr Biden's proposals, saying they would violate Americans' constitutional right to bear arms.
However, Mr Biden urged lawmakers to stand up to these groups and side with the American people, who clearly favour tougher gun laws, according to recent polls.
Mr Biden's proposals include a ban on semi-automatic weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, such as those used at a school massacre at in Newton, Connecticut, in December that ignited the new push for gun control.
With many Republicans and Democrats from conservative states reluctant to embrace tougher gun laws, Mr Biden and President Barack Obama have traveled the country to try, seeking public support for their proposals.
Mr Biden said Congress should not yield to gun-control naysayers who contend that "the risk is too high, the outcome is too uncertain".
He acknowledged that members of Congress who backed a 1994 ban on assault weapons faced a voter backlash that year that may well have cost many of them their jobs.
"I'm here to tell you the world has changed since 1994," Mr Biden said.
"I can't imagine how we will be judged as a nation, as a people, as individuals, if we do nothing. It is simply unacceptable."