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U.S. President Barack Obama Sets Up Special Task Force To Deal With America’s Epidemic Of Gun Violen
December 19, 2012
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U.S. President Barack Obama is promising to make a new push to deal with America's epidemic of gun violence.

Obama spoke today in Washington - his third public statement since last Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The President said he is creating a task force to come up with "concrete proposals" to reduce gun violence, prevent mass shootings and create new mental health laws.

"This time, the words need to lead to action," Obama said.

"If there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any one of these events, we have a deep obligation - all of us - to try," he said.

"As I said on Sunday night, there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society," he added. "We need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun."

"[But] the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing," he said.

u.s.-president-barack-obama-creates-new-task-force-to-deal-with-america's-epidemic-of-gun-violence-feature2.jpg Obama said the task force is "not some Washington commission." He's asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead it and report back "no later than January."

The president said a "majority of Americans" back changes to some laws, including a renewed ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Senator Dianne Feinstein - a Democrat - plans to introduce legislation in the new year to bring back the ban on assault weapons.

It was allowed to expire in 2004 when George W. Bush was President.

Obama also said he wants to close loopholes that allow people to buy weapons for gun shows without a background check.

And he called on Congress to move quickly in the new year and hold votes on those issues, so it can pass legislation "without delay."

Biden could be key to getting changes through Congress. He's a long time supporter of gun control and has decades of experience as a senator, with a reputation for building support on Capitol Hill.

His team will include members of the Obama administration and representatives of outside groups.

Obama has been president during several mass shootings and has called for tighter gun laws before, but never strongly pushed to get anything done.

But this time could be different (maybe) as some pro-gun Democrats are calling for change, including Senators Harry Reid, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner.

Warner has said the "status quo isn't acceptable" and has called for "rational gun control."

u.s.-president-barack-obama-creates-new-task-force-to-deal-with-america's-epidemic-of-gun-violence-feature3.jpg Manchin - on the left - has said it's time to move beyond rhetoric. "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle," he said.

Yesterday, Manchin - a gun owner and hunter - spoke with Obama on the phone.

He said he and the president "agree that as Americans and parents, all of our children belong to all of us - and we must work together to keep our precious children safe."

Manchin also said he knows "my friends at the NRA [National Rifle Association] and those who support our Second Amendment rights will participate because I know that their hearts are aching for the families in Newtown, just like all Americans."

Until yesterday, the NRA had said nothing about the Connecticut shooting.

In a statement, it said it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown."

"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

The group - which is one of the most powerful lobbies in America - plans to hold a news conference on Friday.

As for Republicans (who have a majority in the House of Representatives), some are saying this kind of violence is a mental health problem, not a gun problem.

Republican Louie Gohmert told NPR "I think to say that we need new gun laws in premature."

"As a former judge, it just seems the appropriate thing to do is gather all of the evidence before we come up with a verdict."

However, Republican Senator Charles Grassley has signaled he's prepared for a debate that includes guns and mental health.

And Republican Jack Kingston told NPR it might be time for change.

"The idea of squeezing the trigger in the face of a six-year-old is abhorrent. No one in here can believe it, it's something you can't get your mind off of and you can't get your mind around," he said.

Kingston added "we need to address this, and if there's a solution out there that involves guns, put it on the table."

20 children and six adults were killed in Newtown, Conn, when a man carrying a military-style rifle forced his way into their elementary school.

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