President Barack Obama wants recommendations for action to prevent gun violence by January and votes in Congress soon, he announced Wednesday morning.
Obama has tasked Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with leading the effort, but said the commission will not be the typical Washington group that spends months on a subject only to see its recommendations ignored. Nor would the effort be limited simply to mass shootings; it will also address what the president called the “epidemic” of gun violence that kills more than 10,000 people per year.
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting massacre last week, “every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence,” the president noted.
Obama outlined several measures he wants to see move through Congress early next year, including an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity clips and mandatory background checks for all gun sales, including those at gun shows.
He also indicated the effort would be broader than gun control, and will include a look at mental health care as well.
“We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun,” he said.
And Obama called on the American public to get involved.
“If we’re going to change things it’s going to take a wave of Americans ... standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of our kids,” he said.
Asked about the power of the National Rifle Association, Obama said that he hopes the gun lobby group does some “self-reflection.”
He also dinged the Senate for failing to confirm a head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for the past six years and urged the chamber to do so soon.
The press conference ended on a testy note, when ABC News’ Jake Tapper challenged the president’s lack of action on gun violence so far in his first term.
“Where’ve you been?” Tapper asked.
Obama snapped back with a list of the things he’s had to deal with, including the recession. “I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.