Vice President Biden says he heard gunshots from Nickel Mines shooting

Vice President Joe Biden (Associated Press)

It's no secret that Vice President Joe Biden has made more than a few gaffes during his political career.

His latest: a hard-to-prove comment about a brush with the 2006 school shooting at Nickel Mines.

Speaking last week to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., Biden made the surprising revelation that he was golfing within earshot of the one-room schoolhouse when a troubled truck driver shot 10 Amish girls, killing five and wounding five.

The remark has triggered a flurry of blog posts from conservative writers, challenging the validity of Biden's account.

The 70-year-old Democrat briefly mentioned the Oct. 2, 2006, shooting as an example of how the "gun violence epidemic" affects towns and cities - big and small.

Biden told the group that it was "pure coincidence" that he was golfing in the area when the horrific tragedy unfolded.

"I happened to be literally - probably, it turned out, to be a quarter-of-a-mile (away) at an outing when I heard gunshots in the woods," Biden said. "We didn't know. … We thought there were hunters."

The vice president didn't specify the reason he was there.

"As I got back to the clubhouse of this outing and saw helicopters, it was a shooting that had just taken place in a small Amish … school just outside of Lancaster ... . So it's not just big cities or well-to-do suburbs. It can happen anywhere."

An online search of the area shows that the closest golf course to the Nickel Mines community is Moccasin Run Golf Club on Schoff Road in Atglen, about six miles away.

The next closest is Tanglewood Manor Golf Course on Scotland Road, about 10 miles away.

The Washington Times first questioned Biden's story last week.

Rodney King, the golf pro at Moccasin Run, told the Times that he was working at the course the day of the shooting and never saw Biden, who was then a U.S. senator from Delaware.

Efforts to reach owners and employees of the two golf courses were not immediately successful.

Kendra Barkoff, press secretary for the vice president, on Wednesday stood by Biden's comments.

"The vice president was golfing in the area on the day of the shooting," she wrote in an emailed response.

She did not provide answers to other questions, including the name of the golf course.

kshuey@lnpnews.com