In the House, Democratic leaders said they’d create a task force to study steps Congress can take.
Chairing the panel will be Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., a gun owner, avid hunter and former co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus who describes himself as a “combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam.” But he’s adamant about gun control.
“Military-type assault weapons and assault magazines have no place on our streets and in our communities,” he said.
Obama has supported reinstating an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, but he hasn’t championed legislation to make that happen. He said Wednesday that he’d been busy with the economy and two wars.
But, he added, “I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington.” And he said the shooting in Newtown should serve as a “wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters.”
Obama often has sought to pressure Congress by taking his case to the public.
“If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans – mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals and, yes, gun owners – standing up and saying ‘Enough’ on behalf of our kids," he said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s championed gun-control efforts, hailed Obama’s move, but he added that there are several immediate steps the president can take, including a recess appointment of a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which brought family members and victims of shootings to meet this week with White House senior officials, called Obama’s urgency on the task force a “tremendous step forward.”