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Can Joe Biden save gun control?
The vice president is packing his bags and heading out to get senators to change their minds on background checks
Is Vice President Biden the red-state-senator whisperer?
Is Vice President Biden the red-state-senator whisperer? John Moore/Getty Images
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ice President Joe Biden says he's going to launch a fresh push for tougher gun control laws. Just over two weeks ago, a GOP-led filibuster blocked legislation that would have expanded federal background checks on firearm buyers. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the public, but when it failed, some political commentators declared the post-Sandy Hook gun-control offensive a failure. But Politico reports that Biden told a group of law enforcement authorities on Thursday that he would soon start traveling around the country to stump for the proposals to give them a second chance of clearing Congress.

The Obama administration and gun-control advocates said they wouldn't give up after their defeat in the Senate. "Now it's official," says blogger Meteor Blades at Daily Kos. Some people assume that the trick to getting the legislation passed is to water it down, but Biden suggests that he plans to press on with the same expanded background checks on gun buyers in the original proposal, while being careful not to simply make another attempt to pass the same bill that was just defeated. He also wants a new federal law against gun trafficking. And Biden has reason to be optimistic that he can save gun control, after all, says Meteor Blades:

Gun-safety advocates have been encouraged since their defeat by poll after poll after poll after poll after poll showing reduced support for senators who voted against the background check compromise crafted by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

Among the senators who have seen their ratings fall because of their gun votes are Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Democrat Mark Begich also took a hit. All opposed expanding background checks to private sales of firearms at gun shows and over the internet. Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina have seen their chances of re-election in 2014 improve because they voted for background checks. [Daily Kos]

Gun-rights groups, however, don't show any sign of giving Biden an inch. The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting in Houston this weekend. With 70,000 members in attendance, the powerful lobbying group will be "using the event to flex its political muscles," says Ben Lefebvre at The Wall Street Journal. The group is sending a message to politicians to show where they stand, billing its Leadership Forum on Friday as "a critical campaign stop for any serious contenders for the White House, Congress, or any of our nation's governorships who support our Second Amendment freedoms." Before they get their hopes up, says Lefebvre, Biden and his allies should note that, while some lawmakers who voted against the Senate proposals have taken a beating in the polls, so far "there is no sign that any [one] of those senators is looking for a way to revisit any of the gun-control proposals."

That's precisely where Biden thinks he can help. The longtime Capitol Hill veteran reportedly told the law enforcement officials that he had been instrumental in winning over some of the red-state senators, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who voted in favor of broader background checks. "The vice president made it clear that he is — that many are trying to understand why certain elected officials voted no," one official said. "And he has, as well as many of us, reached out to these individuals and are trying to understand, 'Why did you vote no?' And that effort is under way."

One puzzling thing about Biden's plans, though, is that he says he "hasn't really discussed" them with President Obama. Yes, Biden was the administration's point man on gun control, tasked with crafting proposals to bring to the president ahead of the recent push on Capitol Hill. But he also has a history of getting out in front of Obama on issues, like when he apparently unwittingly hastened the president's evolution on gay marriage by proclaiming his own support of it. Looks like "Biden's going rogue" again, says Simon van Zuylen-Wood at Philadelphia magazine. "He's going on a whirlwind, nationwide tour to shame senators" and save gun control, and "it's so badass and double-secret" he hasn't even told his boss. "That's our Joe."

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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