- (Photo: REUTERS)
In the midst of increasing calls for gun control after the Newtown massacre and other acts of violence, President Obama announced the formation of an interagency task force at a Wednesday press conference.
Prior to the press conference, White House officials said Obama will not propose any specific recommendations in his mid-morning press conference, but that Obama is "actively supportive" of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) push to bring back an assault-weapons ban. Spokesman Jay Carney also added the president supports closing the so-called gun show loophole.
"We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides," Obama said at the press conference today. "But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing."
Cabinet members and their staff who will play a key role in the discussions on gun control include Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Both supporters and opponents of gun control have taken to the airwaves and news sites touting reasons for and against imposing stricter limitations on handguns and semi-automatic rifles, but the most notable are pro-gun Democrats such as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
"Every child should have a safe place in their life where harm cannot enter. It's not always the home. It most always has been the school, and it seems like now that has been jeopardized and taken away," says Manchin, according to the AP.
The West Virginia senator offers a more pragmatic side to the debate and is open to the suggestion that teachers and school administrators be armed.
"People have come to me and said, 'We should be arming and training all of our teachers and all of our principals how to carry and use a handgun.' Whether you agree or not, that should be part of the dialogue," says Manchin, who also hopes to bring the NRA and gun control supporters to the table.
But others such as Dan Gross who heads up the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and recently met with Obama senior aid Valerie Jarrett, is not so willing to compromise. He outlined his concerns in a recent blog post.
"There are two basic ways we can respond to America's relentless gun carnage. One is resignation at our leaders' failure to address gun violence as we do every other public health and safety problem, and acceptance that periodic mass shootings and 87 gun deaths a day is simply a fact of life in our country."
"This view assumes that Americans are simply more prone to violence than other peoples, and that we are unavoidably fated to live awash with guns, with no realistic way to ever control dangerous people's access to high-powered weaponry. We must reject that dark vision – and most Americans do."
Obama, who is on record in his support for reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, may see the time right to seek congressional approval. However, he has spent virtually no political capital on the issue and it was rarely mentioned during the fall presidential elections.
Nonetheless, the appointment of the task force may be a first step for an administration that feels they have a mandate from the American people after securing a second term.
The National Rifle Association, which had not responded to last Friday's Sandy Hook shootings, issued a statement late Tuesday, saying, "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
And on the Tuesday edition of the group's nightly online news program, host Ginny Simone called the 1994 assault weapons ban "a ban we all know was a failed experiment from the start."
"What we need to do is stop making schools magnets for mass murderers like Adam Lanza," Simone said while introducing an interview with Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute.
The two discussed Connecticut's existing gun laws and how they failed to prevent the shooting in Newtown, also suggesting more school employees to be allowed to go armed.