WASHINGTON - The White House is still pushing for an assault-weapons ban, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday, even though Senate Democrats all but sealed its fate by dropping it from the gun-control package they plan to consider next month.
Although the ban's sponsor still plans to offer it as an amendment, it is almost certain to fall victim to opposition from Republicans and likely some Democrats, too. In jettisoning the ban Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it fell far short of the amount of support it would need to survive a vote and said including the assault-weapons ban could sink the whole bill.
"Attitudes are changing," Biden said in an interview with NPR News. "The president and I are going to continue to push, and we haven't given up on it."
Biden and President Obama have walked a fine line on the assault-weapons ban, widely considered the most politically challenging element of the gun-control proposals the administration is pushing. While fully embracing the ban as a matter of policy, the administration has avoided describing it as a must-have, wary of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead, they've argued that at the very least the ban deserves a vote, even if political considerations ultimately place its passage out of reach.
Gun-control advocates have insisted on the ban after an assault-type weapon was used in the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., in December, galvanizing a national discussion about efforts to curb gun violence. Soon after the shooting, Obama tapped Biden to spearhead an effort to reduce gun deaths.
But staunch opposition from the National Rifle Association and other groups has underscored the political risks for lawmakers who support the measures, and Democrats are eager to pass whatever they can before Americans lose interest in the issue and the window to act closes.