Never much known for restraint, Joseph R. Biden Jr. did not hold back during a presidential primary debate in 2007 when a voter asking about gun rights in a recorded video displayed a fearsome looking semiautomatic rifle and declared, "This is my baby." Mr. Biden, then a Delaware senator in a dark horse bid for the White House, shook his head. "I tell you what, if that's his baby, he needs help," he said. "I think he just made an admission against self interest. I don't know if he's mentally qualified to own that gun." The candidate's blunt, dismissive remark cheered one side of America's long polarized debate about guns and alienated the other.

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