Joe Biden Urges Franklin Graham, Faith Leaders to Address Gun Control as Moral Issue

At a White House meeting on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden encouraged nearly 20 representatives from various faith-based communities to continue pressuring their local lawmakers to pass legislation demanding background checks on gun purchases, reportedly telling them to angle their argument for gun control from a moral standpoint.

Monday's meeting marks the White House's recent decision to reach out to faith communities regarding gun control legislation, and included prominent members of the evangelical community, such as Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham; Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; and Barrett Duke, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The two-hour meeting reportedly revolved around Biden's optimistic tone regarding upcoming votes, especially since the bipartisan proposal to expand background checks failed to obtain the necessary 60 votes in the Senate last month.

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Although the gun control package did fail its vote and the Senate is now turning its attention to the upcoming debate on immigration reform, Biden said he believes that the issue of gun control in the U.S. is still very much alive and of interest to the American public.

The meeting also addressed the concerns of some faith leaders regarding the effect of gun control legislation on the liberties of law abiding citizens, including worries that a national gun registry could be implemented.

"There were some very powerful evangelical leaders in the room who needed to be reassured," Pastor Michael McBride of the PICO National Network, a faith-based organizing network, told The Associated Press of the meeting.

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism told CNN that the meeting included faith leaders "[working] on thanking some of the people for whom we knew this was a hard vote and to encourage local churches and synagogues to speak out in the states and districts of those senators and representatives who seem to be either undecided or willing to revisit this issue with an open mind."

The vice president also encouraged the faith leaders to approach the subject of gun control as a moral issue when speaking to their congregations.

Muslim and Sikh leaders also joined Monday's meeting, which was attended by several of President Obama's aides and Biden's chief of staff, Bruce Reed.

Biden affirmed his continued pursuit of background check legislation in an op-ed piece published by the Houston Chronicle last week, in the same city where the National Rifle Association was holding its annual, 70,000-member meeting.

"We fell short on our first effort to pass Manchin-Toomey in the Senate, but we will not be deterred by one setback," Biden wrote in the piece. "We have an obligation to make sure that the voices of victims, not the voice of the NRA, ring the loudest in this debate."

Although Biden maintained an optimistic view of gun control legislation at Monday's meeting, he ascertained that a Senate vote on the issue will have to wait until after summer, as the Senate is now taking up the debate on immigration reform in the U.S.

After the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) crafted a bipartisan proposal which sought to extend background checks to apply to existing rules for gun purchases made at firearms shows or on the Internet.

Although the National Rifle Association said that the compromised background check deal is better than the initial universal background check legislation proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), it still believes many more issues need to be fixed before a background check is implemented.

"We are not in favor of expanding the background check system until the NICS system (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is fixed, the adjudicated mentally ill are included in the data bases, and there is demonstrable evidence that placing additional burdens and costs on honest gun owners would keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and potential mass shooters," David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association, told The Huffington Post via email in early April.

"At present even those who are clearly violating the law by trying to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer aren't prosecuted, but those who have done nothing wrong are often forced to try to clear themselves because of inaccurate info in the federal data bases," Keene added.

Additionally, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told NRA members Saturday in Houston that now is the optimum time to fight for Second Amendment rights in the U.S.

"We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about. We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or to lose it forever," LaPierre said, according to The Hill.

"We must remain vigilant, ever resolute, and steadfastly growing and preparing for the even more critical battles that loom before us."

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