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December 19, 2012

President Obama calls for gun answers by January

Looking to seize a sense of urgency in the wake of last week's elementary school shooting, President Obama Wednesday said he's asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to include members of his Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of "concrete proposals" to stem gun violence by no later than January.

Obama pledged he'd champion the proposals "without delay." Obama argued there's already a "growing consensus" for some forms of gun control, noting that "a majority of Americans" support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

He also said a majority of Americans support requiring background checks before gun purchases, including those at gun shows and urged the incoming Congress to vote on gun control "in a timely manner."

Obama reiterated that he believes that the Second Amendment "guarantees an individual a right to bear arms," but said he also believes that "the vast majority of responsible law-abiding gun owners" think the U.S. "should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war.'

And he ticked off a number of what he called "lesser known tragedies" that had happened since the shooting in Connecticu.

"Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother," he said. "Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri and taken off life support just yesterday.

"Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year -- violence that we cannot accept as routine," he said.

Obama said it will take public opinion to move the needle: "If we're going to change things, it's going to take a wave of Americans -- mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and, yes, gun owners -- standing up and saying, enough on behalf of our kids," he said.

Obama -- who in 2009 signed into law a bill that allows gun owners to carry in national parks -- hotly defended his own record on guns, saying, he had been occupied with the economy and ending the wars.

"I don't think I've been on vacation," he retorted, adding "I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington."

And he said the Connecticut shooting "should be a wake-up call for all of us. To say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And, it's my commitment on to make sure we do everything we can to keep our children safe."


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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