President Obama launched an interagency task force Wednesday to develop immediate reforms to cure what he called a gun violence epidemic that is plaguing the United States.

Even as the nation has suffered from four mass shootings during his first four years in office, Obama has not acted to curb gun violence until now. When a reporter asked him, “Where have you been?” Obama grew defensive, noting that he dealt with a financial collapse, the struggling auto industry, health care 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.”

He said the Newtown, Conn., school shooting should be “a wake-up call for all of us to say if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), a leading advocate for gun-control legislation, said he was “very encouraged” by Obama’s remarks and said that Vice President Biden's gun violence task force, launched Wednesday by the president, must move quickly.

“The country needs his leadership if we are going to reduce the daily bloodshed from gun violence that we have seen for too long,” Bloomberg said in a statement, referring to Obama.

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Transcript: Obama's remarks on gun control