Vice President Joe Biden looked to the nation’s mayors Thursday to help rally public opinion in support of the Obama administration’s push for new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.

“We have to do something,” Biden told the U.S. Conference of Mayors on the first day its three-day winter meeting in Washington. ”We have to act. We have to respond to the carnage on our streets and in our schools.”

Biden found a friendly audience in the mayors, many of whom already had urged similar measures as the ones President Barack Obama proposed this week. The vice president acknowledged the mayors also were interested in other issues, including the debate over whether to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling, but said “as important as they are all, today we have a more urgent and immediate call – that is how to deal with the epidemic of gun violence.”

Conference president Michael Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, said the issue was likely to dominate the weekend meeting.

Mayor Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., a member of the group’s executive committee, expected gun safety to be the main topic at the committee’s closed meeting Friday. He estimated there are about 10 to 15 gun safety ideas that will be discussed.