As families of victims of Friday’s Connecticut elementary school shooting grieved during another day of funerals, President Obama promised action on new gun-control proposals and tapped Vice President Joseph R. Biden to head up the White House’s efforts.
Creating the Biden-led task force also is the first tangible action Mr. Obama has taken to grapple with the issue of gun violence in the aftermath of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., last week that claimed the lives of 20 schoolchildren and eight adults, including the suspected shooter.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” he said Wednesday in a White House press briefing.
Gun rights backers on Capitol Hill have been largely silent since the school tragedy, but some lawmakers have begun to voice opposition — or at least skepticism — as the White House has ramped up talk of proposed legislation.
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Roll Call newspaper Tuesday that gun-control legislation is not a priority for the chamber.
“We’re going to take a look at what happened there, and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support,” he said.
Other Republicans on Tuesday indicated a willingness to participate in a broader, bipartisan look at guns, mental health issues and violent influences on youths, but they stopped well short of getting behind the president’s gun-control push.
“I think we ought to pursue the ideas that call for a blue-ribbon task force or commission with all stakeholders that can look at the much bigger issues associated with tragic events, such as this,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It certainly can’t be a debate just about guns.”
Mr. Obama did not announce any specific policy goals, saying only that Mr. Biden would head a task force of Cabinet officials and outside organizations that will produce legislative proposals no later than the end of January.
“This is not some Washington commission that will study the issue for six months then publish a report that gets read and gets put aside,” the president said.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” he added.
The president predicted that even most gun owners would back his proposals, but a Gallup Poll indicates the White House may be overestimating the American appetite for gun control.
Americans say the best way to stop mass shootings like the school rampage in Connecticut is to increase police at schools and focus on mental health issues — and give lower priority to banning semiautomatic guns, according to Gallup’s latest polling.
The poll found that 87 percent thought putting more police at schools would be at least somewhat effective, and 84 percent thought increasing spending on mental health would help, but only 63 percent said a ban on semi-automatic firearms would be “very effective” or “somewhat effective,” making it fifth on a list of six options Gallup offered.
Indeed, Americans said that trying to curtail the amount of violence depicted on television and in video games would be more effective than a gun ban.