PRESIDENT Barack Obama wants “concrete proposals” to curb gun violence by the end of next month in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.
He has tasked vice-president Joe Biden with co-ordinating the campaign and said he will push legislation “without delay”. The president urged Congress to hold votes on the bill.
Mr Obama said the issue was complex but added: “We have a deep obligation – all of us – to try.”
Mr Biden, a long-time guncontrol advocate, will lead a team that will include members of Mr Obama’s administration and outside groups.
The move came after Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school by a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle.
Funerals were taking place yesterday for four of the children, teacher Victoria Soto and school principal Dawn Hochsprung. Funerals were also scheduled for Charlotte Bacon, six, Daniel Barden, seven, Caroline Previdi, six, and Chase Kowalski, seven.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” Mr Obama said. “The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence.”
Mr Obama, who largely failed to address gun control during his first term, also pressed Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
The president called for stricter background checks for people who seek to purchase weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines.
The administration will have to make its gun-control push in the middle of tense negotiations with Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of billions of dollars in tax increases and deep spending cuts that will kick in at the end of the year without a budget deal.
Notably, the first question asked of Mr Obama during a press conference after his gun announcement was about the fiscal talks.
In the days since the shooting, he has vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to safeguard the nation’s children.
The massacre has prompted several congressional gun-rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, but there are concerns in the administration and elsewhere that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the shooting eases.
The most powerful supporter of gun owners and the gun industry, the National Rifle Association, broke its silence four days after the shooting.
In a statement, it pledged “to help to make sure this never happens again” and has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow.
With the NRA promising “meaningful contributions” and Mr Obama vowing “meaningful action,” the challenge in Washington is to turn words into action. Ideas so far have ranged from banning people from buying more than one gun a month to arming teachers.
The challenge will be striking the right balance with protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Firearms are in a third or more of US households, and suspicion runs deep of an overbearing government whenever it proposes expanding federal authority.
Many pro-gun politicians have also called for a greater focus on mental health issues and the impact of violent entertainment, like video games. Mr Obama, likewise, prefers a wider approach, with aides saying stricter gun laws alone are not the answer.
Mr Obama said the US needs to make access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.