US & Canada

Obama 'determined' for action on gun crime, Biden says

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Media captionUS Vice-President Joe Biden says executive action may be taken on the issue of gun control

President Barack Obama is "determined" to curb gun violence, US Vice-President Joe Biden has said, opening high-profile talks on the issue.

Mr Biden, leading the White House effort on gun control policy, said the president could use executive orders.

He spoke as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The gun-control moves follow last month's deadly shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead.

Adam Lanza killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults at a primary school in Newtown after first shooting his mother dead, then took his own life.

Mr Biden said the president was "determined to take action" to reduce gun violence.

'President will act'

"We are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we do everything we're going to do nothing," Mr Biden told reporters before the meetings with gun-safety and victims' groups began.

"There is a pretty wide consensus on three or four or five things in the gun safety area that could and should be done."

But gun control is a polarising issue in Congress, and Mr Biden warned that Mr Obama would take action independently if necessary, although he gave no specific details.

"We're reaching out to all parties on whatever side of this debate you fall," Mr Biden said. "But the president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken."

The White House has pledged to send its proposals to Congress at the end of January, shortly after Mr Obama is sworn into office on 21 January for his second term.

But an assortment of gun-rights groups are planning a Gun Appreciation Day over the inauguration weekend.

They are encouraging gun enthusiasts to visit gun shops, gun ranges and gun shows.

NRA and Walmart

In his remarks, Mr Biden suggested that the White House would consider a range of measures.

The BBC's Paul Adams, in Washington, reports that they would almost certainly include reinstating a ban on so-called assault weapons, as well as a more comprehensive system of background checks on people buying guns.

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Media captionCan a movement that calls for more guns in the US really save lives?

Also on Wednesday, Mr Cuomo, whose state has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, came out in favour of a ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

"Some weapons are so dangerous and some ammunition devices so lethal that we simply cannot afford to continue selling them in our state," he said during his State of the State speech.

Mr Cuomo also called for follow-up checks for people with handgun licences, to make sure they are still qualified to own their weapon, and longer sentences for gun crimes.

He has been joined by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who called on policy-makers to examine the US mental health system and broaden access to drug treatment.

Mr Christie also said the impact of violent video games should be examined.

On Thursday, the vice-president is scheduled to meet the National Rifle Association, the powerful pro-gun group.

In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the NRA advocated having armed guards at every US school.

Mr Biden will also meet representatives of Walmart, the world's largest retailer and the biggest-seller of guns in the US.

Walmart had initially declined to send anyone to the White House, but a spokesman told Reuters news agency the retailer had "underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting".

In California on Wednesday, the nation's largest teacher pension fund took the first step to divest from companies that manufacture guns and ammunition.

CalSTRS' investment in companies like Sturm, Ruger & Co and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp account for $11.7m (£7.3m) of the system's $155bn portfolio.

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