Opening high-level consultations on America’s gun laws in the wake of December’s shooting of 20 children in a Connecticut school, the Vice-President Joe Biden has served notice that Barack Obama was “determined to take action” and will sidestep Congress if necessary.
Mr Biden, who is due to meet with representatives of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby group, told reporters that regardless of what Congress is able to agree on, there would be additional steps the President could take by executive order.
“We’re reaching out to all parties on whatever side of this debate you fall,” Mr Biden noted. “But the President is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.” New laws that Congress might pass could include the resurrection of a ban on all assault weapons, tighter background checks for purchasers of guns and much tighter restrictions on access to guns for the mentally ill.
The gun lobby meanwhile is gearing up a counter-campaign which includes the holding of a national “Gun Appreciation Day” on the eve of Mr Obama’s inauguration on 21 January. Having at first declined an invitation to attend Mr Biden’s consultations, the Wal-Mart retail chain reversed its position and said it would take part.