By Dan Robinson
Acting less than a week after the massacre of 26 people, including 20 young children and six adults, in a school in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama has ordered creation of a government-wide task force to come up with solutions to gun violence.
Obama is taking advantage of continuing national horror over the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to push forward what he called a “re-emerged” national discussion about gun violence, and to seek solutions.
Vice President Joe Biden will lead the effort involving members of the president’s Cabinet, and outside organizations. Obama wants their recommendations no later than January and vows to act on them without delay.
“This is not some Washington commission, this is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms, right now,” the president said.
Obama has spoken with lawmakers in Congress, including gun-rights advocates from both parties who indicated they could support new restrictions on military-style rifles and large ammunition magazines.
He said the fact that solutions to gun violence involves complex issues, including mental health and education, as well as passions on all sides should not be an excuse for inaction.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can not prevent every act of violence does not mean we can not steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence,” Obama said.
Obama and gun control advocates face obstacles because of the power of groups such as the National Rifle Association.
The NRA called the shootings “horrific and senseless” and said it is prepared to offer “meaningful contributions” to make sure similar incidents do not happen again.
Obama called for a “thoughtful approach” that preserves Second Amendment rights to gun ownership, but gets serious about gun safety.
Kathy Kiely is managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political contributions from the National Rifle Association to politicians in Washington and nationwide.
“I think what has kept the NRA powerful and what has kept gun control out of the debate is they are still, within Washington by politicians, a feared organization. They are feared because they can turn out the vote and they can turn on lots and lots of campaign contributions either to support a politician or oppose a politician,” Kiely said.
At a recent demonstration by gun control advocates outside the White House, Colin Bortner and Linda Hoffman voiced impatience.
“I just think there has been a failure in leadership on gun control laws, and I am hoping that will change,” Bortner said.
“We need some practical legislation. It does not have to be, it is not something that is against the Second Amendment, but preventing people from buying these magazines that shoot 20 and 30 rounds,” said Hoffman.
President Obama says there is a need for all to “reflect” how to prioritize what is done in Washington, he said the Connecticut shootings should be a wake up call to “get right” the need to keep our children safe.