Obama Outlines Effort To Stem Gun Violence Epidemic
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s new call for proposals to deter gun violence — and his pledge to push those proposals through Congress — sets up the prospect of an intense debate over gun rights and the Second Amendment next year.
Obama appointed Vice President Biden on Wednesday to lead an effort to find ways “to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day.”
Speaking five days after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Obama said, “We won’t prevent (all violent tragedies), but that can’t be an excuse not to try.”
The vice president will consult with Cabinet members and outside groups before delivering “a set of concrete proposals no later than January,” Obama said, “proposals that I then intend to push without delay.”
The president also endorsed new congressional efforts to revive a ban on military-style assault weapons, as well as new restrictions on high-volume ammunition clips.
In past years, gun rights advocates have questioned the effectiveness of gun control legislation. They say many proposals violate their Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
Obama said Wednesday that he believes in the Second Amendment, but he is confident many supporters will back common-sense legislation in light of the shooting in Newtown, and he’s betting “the vast majority of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war.”
As for the politically powerful National Rifle Association, Obama said its members are “mothers and fathers” also affected by the Newtown tragedy. “There is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all,” he said.
The NRA and guns rights groups have said little since the Newtown shooting. The NRA declined comment on the Obama-Biden project. It has a news conference set for Friday.
In a statement released Tuesday, the NRA said it is “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
This incident may trigger a change in the NRA’s policy toward gun control, said Jon Vernick of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. One of the most significant changes would be requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, he said.
Congressional Republicans indicated a wait-and-see approach to what Obama and Biden develop.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said: “When the vice president’s group makes specific proposals, we will take a look. Right now our focus is, and should be, on the victims, their families, and their community.”
Biden’s task involves dealing not only with potential new gun laws, but also with mental health and cultural issues.
Obama said he picked Biden because of his experience in the Senate, including authorship of the 1994 crime bill that included an assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.