Spurred into action by last week's mass shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama has tapped Vice President Joe Biden to oversee a task force that will develop new gun control and mental health policies.
"The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence," Obama told reporters Wednesday morning.
The president has directed the task force, which will include cabinet members and outside organizations, to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January. He also said the nation must focus on ways to make mental health care as accessible as guns and examine the current culture in which guns and violence are glorified.
"This is not some Washington commission," Obama said. "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."
Proponents of stronger gun control laws have been deeply disappointed by Obama for not addressing this issue more aggressively during his first term, especially given the number of mass killings that occurred. Gun control has not been a popular issue. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers fear that voting for it could cost them votes at the polls.
But the Sandy Hook tragedy has so shocked the nation that strong gun-rights advocates also are now calling for change.
The politically powerful National Rifle Association finally broke its silence on the school shootings Tuesday with a statement that said it "is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)