WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for a new gun control bill to be drawn up by next month and vowed that he would immediately throw his political weight behind it.
Speaking five days after a lone gunman slaughtered 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to study the problem of violence with firearms in America.
But he also insisted he supported citizens' right to bear arms.
“We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence,” he told reporters, flanked by Biden at a White House news conference.
“If there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try,” Obama said. The White House has previously said Obama backs a plan to revive a ban on assault weapons.
“We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides and, as I said on Sunday night, there's no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
“The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence.
“That's why I've asked the vice president to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January,” he said.
Obama added he would push such a proposal “without delay,” citing as a model a previous ten-year ban on assault weapons, military-style semi-automatics, that Congress allowed to expire in 2004.
He also called for more stringent criminal record checks to be applied to gun purchases, but added that he did not want to call into question the right of US citizens to own and carry firearms.
“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.”