Joe Biden's Google Hangout Takes on Assault Weapons and the NRA

The Atlantic Wire

"I don't view it as gun control, I view it as gun safety." That was Vice President Joe Biden's key message during a Google+ hangout on Thursday afternoon as his road show pitching the Obama administration's new gun proposals took to a friendly part of the web. But that's a version of what the NRA says, too, and Biden had some choice words for gun-rights advocates: "A shotgun will keep you a lot safer than an assault weapon," he said, and a shotgun is a better choice when the worst hits.

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The "fireside chat" that had a noticeable lack of fire, but it kicked off with a question from YouTube star Philip DeFranco about the efficiency of Dianne Feinstein's just-unveiled gun legislation, and why Biden thinks an assault-weapons ban will be more effective than the one he helped get passed in 1994. Biden's argument was that while assault weapons don't account for a high number of murders, they are helping to outgun police officers, which he says is a major problem. "You have an individual right to own a weapon both for hunting and for self-protection," Biden said, but that doesn't mean assault rifles are the appropriate tools for the job. 

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Biden peppered the chat with stories about his family's hunting traditions, and the guns they keep in their homes. Biden has two shotguns, and his sons have two shotguns as well, he said. "There is no sporting need that I'm aware of to have a magazine that holds 50 rounds... and I'm a sportsman," Biden said toward the end of the session. 

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DeFranco asked the most surprising question of the whole hangout, when he posited that California  citizens might be concerned about arming themselves during "the big quake" or asome other major catastrophe. Biden's answer? Those people shouldn't be using assault rifles, because they probably wouldn't know how to shoot very accurately, and it's usually easier to hit something with a shotgun anyway. "If you wanna keep some people away during the big earthquake, buy yourself some shotgun shells," Biden said. Here's a clip: 

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Another questioner asked whether the government wants to put more armed guards in schools, offering Biden his first opportunity in public to confront the NRA's gun-in-ever-school plan — as well as the growing number of teacher gun training programs since the Newtown shootings. "We think it would be a terrible mistake" to arm teachers, Biden said. "The last thing we need to do is arm school teachers and administrators." The Vice President advocates schools hiring a "school resource officers" (a uniformed police officer or a psychiatrist), should they opt in to the administration's program. "It's not about keeping bad guns out of the hands of good people," Biden said later in a more direct reference to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre's much discussed line of thinking. "It's about keeping all guns out of the hands of bad people."

A woman currently in the midst of applying for a gun permit asked why the government is focusing more on pushing new gun laws rather than enforcing laws that are already in place. They try, Biden said, but sometimes it's not enough. "Right now there is no federal law against gun trafficking," Biden said. "You'd think there would be."

Biden closed the chat by asking everyone to "write your congressman. For or against, write your congressman."