Charles Dharapak / AP
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 | 10:57 a.m.
President Barack Obama has called for a special task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to deliver “a set of concrete proposals” on how to reduce gun violence to Congress by January.
Obama challenged Congress to act swiftly to pass a package of policies addressing everything from regulation of gun purchases to banning military-grade assault rifles to access to mental health and improvements in school safety.
“Any single gun law can’t solve all these problems,” Obama said. “The fact that this problem is complex may no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.”
Obama noted that how in the five days since 20 children and six adults were gunned down with an assault rifle at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., people from across the political spectrum have been revisiting their stances on gun laws.
In the Senate, at least three conservative Democrats who support gun rights have said it is time to discuss more stringently regulating access to guns. Others with a history of supporting gun rights, including Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, have not specifically called for new laws on gun control.
In making his case, Obama recalled several instances of gun violence since the Newtown tragedy — including a murder-suicide at the Excalibur on Friday.
According to a Centers for Disease Control study of data from 2006 and 2007, Las Vegas has the third-highest rate of gun-related deaths, behind only New Orelans and Detroit.
“If there is even one thing we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try,” Obama said.
But he stressed that in calling for new laws, he was not trying to undo the 2nd Amendment.
“There is a big chunk of space between what the 2nd Amendment means and having no rules at all,” Obama said. “That space is what Joe’s going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.”
Biden wrote the 1994 crime bill that included the country’s most recent serious gun regulation, an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. When that ban passed, however, it had bipartisan support, including from former Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Now, the gun control discussion is more fraught with politics.
The National Rifle Association wields influence over the political process, thanks to its campaign donations and an annual rating system that grades lawmakers on how well NRA lobbyists believe they are supporting gun issues.
The president stressed that it is time for the NRA to change its outlook as well. “What we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is this sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the 2nd Amendment,” Obama said.
At a news conference, Obama was pressed about why, until now, he has not led a debate on gun control.
“I’ve been president of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the great depression...I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,” he said, after a reporter asked him “where have you been” on gun control?
“As I said on Sunday, this should be 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 said.