Biden Compares Gun Control to Car Air Bags: 'We're Saving Lives'

By Fred Lucas | January 10, 2013 | 3:33pm EST

Vice President Joe Biden. (AP)

( – Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday compared restrictions on guns to auto safety regulations such as air bags, by saying neither the gun nor the auto industries wanted regulations to save lives.

“Well they didn’t want to have air bags. Well, guess what? We have air bags. We’re saving lives,” Biden told reporters before a meeting with several stakeholders on the gun-control issue, as he plans to craft a set of proposals for President Barack Obama by Tuesday, Jan. 15.

The proposals are expected to include a renewed ban on so-called assault weapons, and beefed-up background checks.

“The last area is the whole subject of the ability of any federal agency to do research on gun violence,” Biden said. “There was a big fight when I first got to the Senate that began in the late 60s through early 70s where the automobile industry was very reluctant to allow the Department of Transportation to acquire statistics on the type of accidents that occurred. They were not able to literally acquire information because the concern was it would lead to a call for some rational regulations.”

Biden said that when the government got the information, it imposed regulations to require automakers to build cars with steering wheels that collapse and that would withstand a greater amount of shock from a front-end collision. Then another matter came along, he said.

“All of a sudden, when we found out passengers were being killed because they were being thrown through windshields or, if my memory serves me, skull fractures from being thrown into the crossbar, all of a sudden we started talking about, it made sense, why don’t we have airbags? They didn’t want to have airbags. Well guess what, you have airbags. We are saving lives,” Biden said.

The correlation, according to Biden, is that today there are legal barriers to the government getting information on guns.

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo, handguns are displayed in the sales area of Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range, in Sandy Springs, Ga. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

“Well, as you know, there are restrictions now on any agency in the government just gathering the information about what kind of weapons are used most to kill people,” Biden said. “How many weapons used are trafficked weapons? Are weapons used in gang warfare in our major cities -- are they legally purchased or are they purchased through straw men? We don’t have that information. And the irony is we are prohibited under laws and appropriations bills from acquiring it.”

The Obama administration is pushing for new gun-control measures after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman murdered 20 children, most of them kindergarteners.

Subsequently, Obama formed a task force to come up with a legislative package that he could unveil during the State of the Union address. He put Biden in charge of the task force.

At about noon on Thursday, Biden met with advocates for sportsmen and wildlife interest groups and was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Later in the afternoon, Biden, Holder, LaHood and Duncan were set to meet with gun-owners’ groups, including the National Rifle Association. Then at 6 p.m. Biden, Holder, and Sebelius were scheduled to meet with representatives of the entertainment industry.

Biden said during the remarks before the noon meeting, “I have committed to him [Obama] that I will have the recommendations to him by Tuesday.”

Biden mentioned “universal background checks.” He also mentioned a call to deal with high- capacity magazines. He also said he would like to talk to gun manufacturers.

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