WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden wants pastors, rabbis and nuns to tell their flocks that enacting gun control is the moral thing to do. But another vote may have to wait until Congress wraps up work on an immigration overhaul.
Biden met for two-and-a-half hours Monday with more than a dozen leaders from various faith communities — Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh, to name a few. Both Biden and the faith leaders encouraged each other not to give up on what has been an arduous and thus far fruitless effort by Biden and President Barack Obama to pass new gun laws in the wake of December's schoolhouse shooting in Connecticut.
Around a large, circular table in a conference room on the White House grounds, Biden waxed optimistic about prospects for passing a bill, according to four participants who spoke to The Associated Press after the meeting. Biden's chief of staff, Bruce Reed, joined the group, as did a handful of Obama aides who work on faith-based outreach. The meeting closed with a meditation and a prayer for action.
But don't expect a vote any time soon.
"The conversation presumed the vote would happen first on immigration," said Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "That seemed to be the back-and-forth on both sides — that immigration was a key priority right now. When that vote took place, it would be an opportunity to refocus on this."
A far-reaching immigration overhaul is in the early stages of advancing through the Senate. Obama said last week he's optimistic it can be completed this year.
Although momentum on gun control stalled in the Senate last month, Biden has insisted the issue is very much alive, and has been meeting regularly with gun violence victims and law enforcement to build support for a second go at legislation to expand background checks, improve mental health care and take other steps to reduce gun violence. Monday's session reflects an attempt to broaden the coalition calling for new gun laws to include a wide array of religious groups — including evangelicals and conservative faith communities.