WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday he has "no illusions" about the fight ahead to pass gun control legislation, but he told a room of about 300 mayors that it's not an impossible fight and urged them, as people on "the front lines," to pressure their lawmakers to get behind President Barack Obama's proposals.
"We, you, the citizens can change the nation," Biden said during remarks at the U.S Conference of Mayors annual meeting. "I've been in this fight a long time. I have no illusions about the fight that's in front of us ... But I know full well the obstacles up against us are not impenetrable."
Biden's remarks come a day after Obama unveiled a sweeping package of reforms aimed at stemming gun violence -- the boldest of its kind in least a generation. Some of Obama's recommendations could have enough bipartisan support in Congress to pass, such as requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. But some of his other proposals face a far steeper climb, namely proposals for reinstating the assault weapons ban and restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
Nonetheless, the vice president said, the president is prepared to throw his full weight behind passing the entire package -- a direct response to last month's shootings in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, but also more broadly in response to the mass shootings in recent years.
"We're going to take this fight to the halls of Congress," he said. "We're going to take it to the American people, making our case and let the voices of the people be heard."
During his nearly hour-long remarks, Biden focused largely on the need for universal background checks -- a topic that delivered him loud applause and one that is among Obama's biggest priorities. Currently, about 40 percent of gun purchases are made without a background check on the buyer, partly because of loopholes that allow people to walk into gun shows and buy firearms without mandated background checks.
As he made the case for background checks and other measures, Biden emphasized that he and the president support the Second Amendment. He said he knew that some in the room "are deer hunters, bear hunters, game hunters." He pointed out that he, too, owns guns: a 20-gauge and a 12-gauge shotgun.
The 12-gauge shotgun "has not been used in a while," he offered.
Biden ran through several of Obama's priority legislative items: He called for better studies on whether violent video games translate to actual violence and got big applause for vowing to push $4 billion for the COPS program. He called for renewing the assault weapons ban, even though he said he knows the gun industry "will do whatever it can" to prevent that from happening. He also pressed mayors to get behind a ban on high-capacity gun magazines, which he said serve no practical hunting or sporting purpose.
"As one hunter told me, if you got 12 rounds, it means you already missed the deer 11 times," he said to laughs. "You should pack the sucker in. You don't deserve a gun, period, if you're that bad."
Biden ended his remarks on a softer tone, though, saying that the problem of gun violence really isn't just about guns but something far greater.
"It is about civility in society," he said. "This is about the coarsening of our culture."