Obama Announces First Steps on the American 'Epidemic of Gun Violence'

Elspeth Reeve
Obama Announces First Steps on the American 'Epidemic of Gun Violence'

In a press conference at the White House Wednesday, President Obama formally announced a commission led by Vice President Joe Biden to draft a set of "concrete proposals no later than January" to deal with gun violence — a strong pledge that also acknowledged a countrywide debate over the past week. Obama, who has been criticized for condemning gun-related crimes but not doing anything about them, and for being too vague in his and the administration's statements since Friday's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, pledged that Biden's commission would not be like the typical Washington blue-ribbon panel that tends to "study for six months and then publish report that gets read and pushed aside." Obama called on Congress to quickly vote on those proposals, and to confirm a head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which has not been done in six years.

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After solemnly listing other acts of gun violence across the country since the massacre in Newtown,  Obama vowed again to commit the powers of his office to what he called an "epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day." Passing new gun laws "won't prevent them all but that cant be an excuse not to try," Obama said. "It won't be easy, but that cant be an excuse not to try." Biden's group will include members of Obama's cabinet and "outside organizations."

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After taking a series of questions on the fiscal cliff, the president added that "any single gun law can't solve all these problems. We're going to have to look at mental health, schools, and a range of things."

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The president also has certain options on gun reform at his disposal under executive orders, with or without cooperation from Republicans or the NRA, which will hold a press conference of its own Friday.