President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House on January 14, 2013. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - President Obama will announce a comprehensive gun-safety plan on Wednesday, a follow-up to his promise to come up with a plan to bolster gun control in the aftermath of last month's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
The White House did not detail the proposal Obama will outline on Wednesday, but White House press secretary Jay Carney underscored that Obama has already endorsed the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban and restrictions on high-capacity magazines--measures that would require action by Congress to implement.
"The president and vice president will hold an event here at the White House tomorrow to unveil a package of concrete proposals to reduce gun violence and prevent tragedies like the one in Newtown, Conn.," Carney said.
Carney said Obama and Vice President Biden will be joined at the announcement by children from around the country who wrote to the president about the scourge of gun violence after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month that left 26 dead.
Biden has told House Democrats that his task force on gun violence has identified 19 areas where President Obama could bolster gun control through executive action.
"At yesterday's meeting between the Vice President and the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force which the congresswoman attended, Vice President Biden explained that he and his staff have researched various plans of action to reduce and prevent gun violence," said Jenny Werwa, a spokeswoman for Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif, who attended a meeting with Biden on Monday. "They have identified 19 different options the president could choose to implement with executive action."
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Werwa added that Biden did not indicate how many of those options the president will take up.
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Obama said Monday that Biden has briefed him on his recommendations and that he plans to present his plan to the public this week.
The White House won't say specifically what actions the president is weighing, but Biden last week made clear that the use of presidential "executive order" is very much on the table.
"The president is going to act," Biden said at the start of a task force meeting with representatives of gun safety and victims' groups. "There are executive orders; there's executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet. But we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and the rest of the Cabinet members, as well as legislative action that we believe is required."
Obama suggested Monday that he will push for broad gun legislation that will need congressional backing on some fronts - including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal gun-buyer background checks.
"Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know," Obama said."My starting point is not to worry about the politics."
The coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has called for Obama to consider several measures that they said could be implemented without congressional approval:
- Step up prosecution by the Justice Department of felons and others prohibited from buying weapons when they attempt to buy them. In 2009, the FBI referred 71,000 cases to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), but U.S. attorneys prosecuted only 77. This is a move that would likely be supported by gun rights proponents.
- Require federal agencies to report records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems. Federal agencies are supposed to submit mental health, substance abuse and other records that prohibit a person from owning a gun, but few do, according to FBI data reviewed by the mayors group.
- Appoint a permanent ATF director. The federal agency charged with enforcing gun laws has gone without a confirmed director for six years.