Vice President Joe Biden met with Mayor Bloomberg and families from Newtown, Conn., Thursday to talk about the need for new federal gun laws as advocates slam Senate Democrats' decision to drop an assault weapons ban from the gun-control package they plan to consider next month.
The vice president, mayor and families of some of the 20 first-graders and six educators slain by a gunman wielding an assault-style weapon at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December gathered at City Hall to urge lawmakers to "pull together here and stop this carnage," the mayor said.
"That weapon of war has no place on American streets, and taking it off America's streets has no impact on one's constitutional right to own a weapon," Biden said.
The legislative package Biden developed includes the assault weapons ban, universal federal background checks and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the assault weapon ban would not be included in the gun-control package to be put before legislators because it lacked the votes to pass.
"For all those who say we shouldn't and can't ban assault weapons, for all those who say the politics is too hard -- how can they say that, when you take a look at those 20 beautiful babies and what happened to them and those six teachers and administrators," Biden said.
Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was among those "beautiful babies" who died in the Newtown school shooting, agreed with Biden.
"There needs to be a change," Heslin said. "There needs to be a ban on assault weapons."
Chris and Lynn McDonnell, who lost their 7-year-old daughter Grace in the massacre, called on legislators to accelerate passage of the ban.
"We know about loss. We ask everyone who has power to influence legislation in this area and those who jobs it is to vote on that legislation to ask themselves if they are doing enough," Lynn McDonnell said.
Biden and 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 Adam Lanza used an assault-style weapon in the Sandy Hook massacre, galvanizing a national discussion about efforts to curb gun violence.
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.
It was that sentiment that led Reid, D-Nev., to drop the ban from the bill the Senate plans to debate in April. But Biden has insisted that the ban's failure is not a foregone conclusion. He pointed to the original, 10-year assault weapons ban that Congress passed in 1994, noting that it too had been written off long before it eventually was adopted.