WASHINGTON -- Family members of Sandy Hook shooting victims are bewildered that Congress is still struggling to pass stricter gun laws, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking to a room full of police in uniform at a White House event, Biden bluntly described the opposition that gun measures face. He blamed “the black helicopter crowd” for stirring up fears that the government wants to “swoop down” and seize everyone’s guns.
That opposition has stalled action, Biden said, frustrating the families of victims. “They really don’t get” how Congress can have failed to vote already, Biden told his audience, recounting a conversation with 13 family members over breakfast at the vice presidential residence earlier in the day. “One mom said to me, ‘What is it they don’t understand?’ ”
A father, he said, talked to him about his daughter’s final moment. She was hiding in the school bathroom as the gunman attacked, Biden recounted.
The man asked him, “How would they explain not doing anything?” Biden said. “She was hiding in the bathroom and she got shot through the heart.”
Organized in a group they call “Sandy Hook Promise,” the family members are in Washington asking senators from both parties to support proposals to require background checks for all gun sales, according to an open letter stating their requests.
Members of the Senate have been negotiating in an effort to come up with a bill to expand background checks that can win the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster threatened by Republican senators opposed to new gun measures. Those talks have not produced agreement so far. The key sticking point has been whether people who sell guns privately, not through a licensed dealer, should be required to make written records of their transactions, which would allow law enforcement agencies to trace guns used in crimes. Opponents of the background check proposal argue that those records could, eventually, become the basis for a national gun registry.
In an effort to speed action, parents and spouses of the Sandy Hook victims began to make their way around Capitol Hill on Tuesday, knocking on doors and introducing themselves.
Family members disclosed few details of the meetings. They said they hope that private talks will stand a better chance of helping the opposing sides find common ground.
“I can’t say we were received with anything less than a heartfelt affection,” said Bill Sherlach, whose wife, Mary Sherlach, was a school psychologist killed in the Dec. 14 shootings. Speaking to reporters, Sherlach questioned how lawmakers would explain a failure to act to the parents, siblings and spouses they now, or will soon, know personally.
He said he hopes the families can help by bringing a fresh way of viewing the issue, saying: “We’re able to look at it in a little more simple fashion.”