Biden to Head Task Force on Gun Violence Causes; as Senator, Pushed for Crime-Fighting Aids, Gun Control

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Crabtree, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama has tasked Vice President Joseph R. Biden with several difficult jobs during their first term, famously dubbing him Sheriff Joe in 2009 and charging him with watching over the distribution of $831 billion in economic stimulus money.

Now the folksy moniker has an even more fitting role to go along with it: Mr. Biden is the president's choice to spearhead the White House's efforts to curb gun violence after Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama announced the formation of a task force to examine the myriad causes behind gun violence. Mr. Biden will consult Cabinet officials and outside groups and submit proposals to the president by the end of January.

As part of a multistep response to the tragedy in Connecticut, the White House has said Mr. Obama plans to pursue a reinstitution of the federal assault-weapons ban. The president said Wednesday that he tapped Mr. Biden in part because of his role in writing and pushing through Congress the 1994 crime bill that included the assault-weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004.

Even with the nation mourning the deaths of 20 children and six adults, along with those of the gunman and his mother, shepherding new gun restrictions through Congress this year will be no easy feat.

Mr. Biden generally received high marks for ferreting out waste and abuse in the mammoth stimulus program even though the infrastructure spending didn't live up to its backers' original claims and the administration has taken a drubbing for the Solyndra loan guarantee and other failed green energy programs.

The vice president's extensive ties to Capitol Hill, forged during 36 years in the Senate, no doubt will come in handy. Mr. Biden also was instrumental in getting the stimulus bill passed, and he was given a similar pressing-the-flesh role in the passage of the health care bill in 2010.

But Mr. Biden may not have the same cross-party appeal when it comes to guns. Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has earned an F from the National Rifle Association, a key pro-gun lobby that Tuesday pledged to contribute in a meaningful way to the national discussion over ways to curb gun violence. …