President Barack Obama announced Monday the creation of a new task force to deal with the country’s epidemic of gun violence, making his third public statement in the five days since the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.”If there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have an obligation to try,” Obama said.
“As I said on Sunday night, there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said. “We need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.”
“[But] the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” he said.
The task force, Obama said, is “not some Washington commission,” but is tasked with coming up with a specific set of policy proposals to address gun violence “no later than January.” He urged Congress to then pass the proposed legislation “without delay,” starting with the confirmation of a new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Obama also listed some specific measures that he supports, including a new ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, and closing the “gun show loophole” on background checks for gun purposes.
The creation of the task force marks a significant shift in his administration’s stance toward gun control.
But in reponse to ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper’s “Where have you been” question about gun control, Obama got defensive.
“I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,” Obama replied.
The task force underscores the growing consensus over tightening gun laws in the wake of the massacre. Several moderate Democrats in Congress — including Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Warner (D-VA) — have indicated that they have changed their position on the issue.
“It’s encouraging that people … have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change their long-held positions,” Obama said. “That conversation must continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.”