Obama announces new task force to tackle gun violence in the U.S.
The new inter-agency body will be led by Vice President Joe Biden and present its recommendations next month.
As funerals continue for the victims of Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. President Barack Obama has begun pressing for action.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Obama announced a new initiative by his administration aimed at curbing gun violence – an inter-agency task force led by the Vice President Joe Biden, which - following consultations with specialists and officials - is expected to present its recommendations in January.
At the press conference, Obama said that "the fact that the issue is complex doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence."
"A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons," Obama said. "A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips (such as the one that used Jared Loughner in Tucson, Arizona attack that left six people dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords severely injured – N.M). A majority of American support laws requires background checks before all gun purchases."
"This country has a strong tradition of firearms ownership," Obama continued. "The vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible. But the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners would be the first to say we should keep irresponsible /dangerous men from getting their hands on arms so easily.... We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to guns."
The president promised a "thoughtful approach that says we can preserve the Second Amendment, but we are going to be serious about making sure something like Newtown doesn't happen again. There is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all."
ABC's correspondent Jake Tapper wondered where Obama has been on this issue in the past four years. Obama replied he had been busy being a president - "dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation," he said, stressing that curbing gun-related violence must become a central issue.
Every mass shooting incident in the U.S. seems to bring about the same pattern: Firearms sales soar - as some people become concerned that their right to purchase guns will be infringed upon, and others become convinced that guns are truly needed for self-defense; gun control proponents raise their voice (several Jewish organizations reiterated in the past few days their call for tightening gun regulations); Democratic lawmakers promise to put legislation on the table when the next Congress session opens, including Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposal to renew ban on selling assault weapons that expired in 2004 and to ban enlarged ammunition magazines.
On the local level, in several states lawmakers proposed to arm school teachers as to better prepare them to deal with threats; critics have responded that armed civilians might cause more damage.
The National Rifle Association finally broke its traditional post-massacre silence, issuing a statement saying they are "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" by the Newtown tragedy, and adding that the organization "is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."