President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to launch an administration-wife effort aimed at curbing gun violence, according to reports.
Following the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, Obama is tasking Biden, a longtime gun control advocate, with spearheading the effort.
In remarks from the White House, Obama outlined a process for pursuing policy changes following the shooting, though he was vague on specific measures.
Obama vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to safeguard the nation’s children after Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school by Adam Lanza, a gunman carrying an arsenal of ammo and a high-powered, military-style rifle.
The White House sees urgency in formulating a policy response to the shooting, despite the impending “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts looming in 2013.
Speaking five days after the massacre, Obama said Wednesday that a new group led by Biden is charged with developing “concrete proposals” no later than January.
The group will include some Cabinet members and outside organizations.
Obama said he believes the Second Amendment does guarantee individuals the right to bear arms, noting “This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership.”
Nevertheless, he vowed to examine the situation and push change.
“This is not some Washington commission where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside,” Obama said.
“This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms right now.”
No single law or set of laws can prevent gun violence, Obama said Wednesday, but the complexity of the issue “can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.”
Authorities must work to make “access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun,” and the country needs to tackle a “culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.”
Obama called for quick action from Congress.
“A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.”
“A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has already said she will introduce legislation to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, which the President supports.
The scope and nature of the latest mass shooting has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms.
There is some fear among gun control advocates that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.
Biden’s prominent role in the process could be an asset for the White House in getting gun legislation through Congress, where he served for decades.
White House aides urged that stricter gun laws alone are not the answer.
“It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“It calls for not only re-examining gun laws and how we enforce them, but also engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities.”
Still, much of the immediate focus after the Connecticut school shooting is on gun control, an issue that has been dormant in Washington for years.
Obama expended little political capital on gun issues during his first term, despite several mass shootings, including a movie theater attack in Aurora, Colo.
The White House began to signal that Obama may be more proactive on gun issues following the murders of the elementary school youngsters, ages 6 and 7.
Obama’s Newtown speech Sunday night indicated the same.