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September 14, 2014

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Biden: ‘We have to take action’ on gun control

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Vice President Joe Biden, flanked by the President of the National Association of Police Organizations and Boston police officer, Thomas Nee, left, and President of the Police Executive Research Forum and Major Cities Chiefs Association and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, right, speaks during a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in Washington. Biden is leading a task force that will look at ways of reducing gun violence.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will push to tighten gun laws in response to last week's schoolhouse massacre in Connecticut, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday, and Speaker John Boehner said the GOP-controlled House would consider the proposals.

Biden, who is overseeing the administration's response to Friday's killing of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, said he and President Barack Obama are "absolutely committed" to curbing gun violence in the United States.

"Even if we can only save one life, we have to take action," he said.

A longtime gun-control advocate, Biden met Thursday with Cabinet members and law enforcement officials from around the country. He said he wanted to meet with the group, which included representatives of at least a dozen law enforcement organizations, because they "know better than anyone else what's needed out there."

Police chiefs helped develop innovations such as community policing and drug courts, Biden said, and they have a comprehensive view of how to approach gun violence.

Gun-control measures have faced fierce resistance in Congress for years, but that may be changing because of the events in Connecticut, which shocked that nation. After the shooting, Obama signaled for the first time that he's willing to spend significant political capital on the issue. Some prominent gun-rights advocates on Capitol Hill — Democrats and Republicans alike — have expressed willingness to consider new measures.

Asked if he would allow a vote next year on gun-control legislation, Boehner, R-Ohio, said he and his caucus "join the president in mourning the victims of the horrible tragedy in Connecticut."

When Biden's recommendations come forward, Boehner said: 'We'll certainly take them into consideration."

Obama on Wednesday tapped Biden to lead an informal task force on gun violence and set a January deadline for the recommendations. The group is considering changes such as reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons, closing loopholes that let gun buyers skirt background checks and restricting high-capacity ammunition clips.

Beyond firearms' restrictions, officials also will look for ways to increase mental health resources and consider steps to keep society from glamorizing guns and violence.

Biden said the assault weapon ban, which expired in 2004, is one thing Congress can do immediately. He pressed the police chiefs to push for such a measure.

"For anything to get done, we're going to need your advocacy," he told the group, which included representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations.

AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.

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