Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
By David Jackson, USA TODAY
Vice President Biden's gun violence project now includes one of its severest critics, the National Rifle Association.
The vice president, who is putting together a possible legislative package to address gun violence in America, is meeting Thursday with a delegation of gun ownership groups, including an NRA representative.
The NRA "is one of the many groups invited," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "I would leave it to those groups themselves to decide whether to make any comment on their attendance at those meetings."
The NRA, which over the years has been critical of gun-control proposals and of Biden's support of them, had little to say about Thursday's sit-down.
Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman, said the group received an invitation from the White House on Friday, and "we are sending a rep to hear what they have to say."
The gun owners' meeting is one of several that Biden is holding this week, as he develops a set of proposals to present to the president later this month.
Victims rights' groups and gun safety organizations are on Biden's agenda for Wednesday. On Thursday, he is set for separate meetings with sportsmen and women as well as gun ownership groups, including the NRA.
Obama asked Biden to undertake the gun violence review after the Dec. 14 shooting that killed 20 students and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The NRA and other gun rights groups have criticized the president for advocating new gun-control measures, including a renewed assault weapons ban, better background checks, and restrictions on the size of ammunition clips.
Obama has said gun control is not the only response to mass shootings, and that education and mental health issues also have to be addressed.
NRA members say gun control is ineffective and in violation of the Second Amendment right to gun ownership. After the Newtown massacre, organization officials proposed increased armed security at the nation's schools, an idea criticized by Obama.
"He was skeptical that putting more guns in schools would solve this problem," Carney said. "But again, we look forward to hearing from a variety of organizations, and civic groups and others, who have insights into this problem."
The vice president is also setting up meetings with members of the entertainment and video game industries, as well as conference calls with elected officials from across the country.
Cabinet members are also involved in Biden's gun review project.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is scheduled to meet with parent, teacher and education groups, while Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks with mental health and disability advocates.
"The process is designed to get input," Carney said. "And then the vice president's group will assess different actions, make recommendations, and the president will decide what he would like to pursue, what he believes is the right course of action."