The move pleased gun-control advocates and many Democrats who have been disappointed with Obama’s inaction on the issue during his first term, which has included four mass shootings of civilians.
Obama told reporters at the White House that he expected the group, which will feature key Cabinet secretaries, to bring him recommendations in January. He said he intends to discuss the issue in his State of the Union address.
With the anger and sadness over Friday’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school driving the issue at a busy moment in Washington, Obama vowed to act on concrete proposals “without delay” as several Hill Democrats urged Congress to do the same.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said. He added: “We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. . . . But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.”
The task force comes after a gunman with semiautomatic weapons
killed 20 children and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother at their home before the attack at the school; he then killed himself.
White House officials say the package of proposals is almost certain to include new restrictions on guns, particularly assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But aides said it will also probably include mental-health initiatives and, as Obama noted Wednesday, a close look “at a culture that, all too often, glorifies guns and violence.”
Although background checks are required for many weapons purchases, not all buyers are subject to investigation, including people shopping at gun shows.
Obama reiterated his support for the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms but said the country’s leaders need to find ways to keep “weapons of war” out of the hands of the irresponsible few.
“There is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all, and that space is what Joe’s going to be working on to try to identify where we’ll find some common ground,” Obama said.
When a reporter asked “Where have you been?” on the gun issue since taking office, Obama grew defensive, noting that he has dealt with a financial collapse, the struggling auto industry, health care, two wars and other major issues.
“I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,”
Obama said. “I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington.”