Obama seeks January gun law
They said they sought to repay the support they received nearly eight years ago from survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School killings in Colorado, which left 15 dead, including the two gunmen.
Emphasising the need to take action, Mr Obama said eight people had been killed by guns across the US since the Newtown shooting, among them a four-year-old boy and three law enforcement officers.
The president has called for a national dialogue on gun violence before, after other mass shootings during his presidency, but his rhetoric has not been backed up with concrete action.
And some of the gun measures Mr Obama has signed has actually lessened restrictions on guns, allowing people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains.
The president bristled at suggestions that he had been silent on gun issues during his four years in office, but acknowledged that the Newtown shooting had been “a wake-up call for all of us”.
The shooting appears to have had a similar impact on several long-time gun backers in Congress. West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and avid hunter, has said “everything should be on the table” as Washington looks to prevent another tragedy, as has 10-term House of Representatives Republican Jack Kingston of Georgia.
There was little response from Republicans yesterday following Mr Obama’s statements. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has been sharply critical of the president’s lack of action on gun issues, called the effort a step in the right direction.
Mr Obama, seeking to ease the fears of gun owners, reiterated his support for the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which gives citizens the right to bear arms. And he said no effort to reduce gun violence would be successful without their participation.
“I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority, of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war,” he said.
He also challenged the National Rifle Association to do “some self-reflection”. The gun lobby is a powerful political force, particularly in Republican primaries, and has previously worked to unseat politicians who back gun control measures.
The NRA, in its first statements since the shooting, pledged on Tuesday to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again”.
The Biden-led task force will also explore ways to improve mental health resources and address ways to create a culture that does not promote violence.
The departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, along with outside groups and politicians, will be part of the process.