US President Barack Obama has asked a team led by Vice President Joe Biden to offer “concrete proposals” to curb gun violence no later than January, following the killing of 26 people at a Connecticut primary school last week.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said he would push legislation “without delay” after he received the recommendations.
He urged the US Congress to hold votes on the bill soon after it is proposed.
Obama said the issue of gun control was complex but that “if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent [shootings such as the Connecticut attack], we have a deep obligation – all of us – to try”.
He said meaningful action needed to be taken to curb an “epidemic of gun violence that plagues this nation every single day”.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” he said.
Biden, a longtime gun-control advocate, will lead a team that will include members of Obama’s administration and outside groups.
‘Weapons of war’
Obama specifically mentioned that he felt it is currently too easy for people with mental instabilities to purchase assault weapons, which he referred to as “weapons of war”. He also said action needs to be taken to close a loophole that allows sales to be made at gun shows without proper background checks.
The president cited as a model for the new legislation a previous ten-year ban on assault weapons – military-style semi-automatics – that Congress allowed to expire in 2004.
Notably, he said that he respected every US citizen’s right to bear arms, but that there needed to be measures in place to ensure that only those who would use their guns “responsibly” would be allowed to purchase them.
“Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the second amendment guarantees an individual a right to bear arms,” he said. “This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership handed down from generation to generation.”
His comments come after twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown last Friday by a man wielding a semi-automatic rifle.
“There have been some concerns voiced by gun control advocates that the president was waiting too long, because right now the emotions of the moment are so raw, they think that this is the time to act. The president says that the American people have a longer attention span than that,” Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC, said.
Any renewal of the assault weapons ban, she said, would also in no way affect the estimated 200 million guns that have already been bought by individuals in the United States.