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On the same day Democratic lawmakers introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, one of the primary authors of the original 1994 ban said that reinstating it is about making the streets safer for law enforcement, who are currently “outgunned.”

Vice President Joe Biden, appointed by President Obama to lead a task force on reducing gun violence following the mass shooting in Newtown, CT that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, participated in a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” (modeled after FDR’s fireside chats) Thursday afternoon. The event was moderated by PBS NewsHour‘s Hari Sreenivasan.

Biden took answers from four participants: a technology expert, a media blogger, a grandmother and a therapist. The wide-ranging discussion covered not just the gun safety proposals the administration has put forward, but mental health measures and countering the gun lobby. A question about the effectiveness of another assault weapons ban (Congress and the Bush administration allowed the first law to expire in 2004) offered Biden a chance to explain why he believes reinstating the ban is important.

“One of the reasons the assault weapons ban makes sense, even though it accounts for a small percentage of gun deaths, is because police organizations overwhelmingly support it because they are outgunned on the street by the bad guys and the proliferation of these weapons,” said Biden.

He said that the number of deadly assaults on police officers has risen since the ban was lifted, also explaining that an assault weapons ban “is not the answer to all the problems, but it is a rational limitation on what types of weapons can be owned,” going back to a previous point he made about the 2008 Supreme Court decision that upheld the individual right to bear arms, but also ruled that the “Constitution put reasonable limitations on who can own and what kind of arms can be owned.”

The statistics back up Biden’s assertion that an assault weapons ban keeps law enforcement officers and the public safer. In the 10 years the ban was in place, assault weapons traced to crimes fell by 66 percent and there was a 6.7 percent decrease in gun murders. Also, The Hill reports that upon reintroducing the assault weapons ban, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) cited a Police Executive Research Forum study that found “that nearly 40 percent of police departments reported an increase in criminal use of assault weapons since the ban expired in 2004.” Former Miami Police Chief John Timoney told the Miami Herald in 2008 that assault weapons were used in about four percent of homicides in 2004 compared to 21 percent in 2007 — a 17 percent increase.

Recent polls show a majority of Americans support reinstating the assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines. And the original assault weapons ban was popular with the public when Congress and the Bush administration allowed it to expire in 2004 — 68 percent supported a reauthorization of the ban.

Biden urged Americans to pressure Congress to pass gun safety laws.

“In the political system, elected officials respond to intensity…so make your voices heard. This town listens when people rise up and speak.”

Here is the full video of Thursday’s Google+ Fireside Chat with VP Biden:

Photo credit: Associated Press


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