President Obama today will announce his administration's first coordinated steps to respond to the elementary school shooting in Newtown, a day after White House officials said the president "actively supports" some gun control measures.
Obama is expected to announce that Vice President Joe Biden will spearhead an interagency panel to develop policies in the wake of the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. White House aides say Obama is not expected to announce major policy decisions, but that he'll spell out the process by which the administration will move forward.
Obama has been criticized for not moving aggressively on gun control measures in his first term, but he pledged Sunday night to use "whatever power this office holds" for an effort aimed at preventing a repeat of such violence, saying "we can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end and to end them, we must change."
Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama supports a number of gun control measures, including reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, and closing the gunshow loophole. Biden will attend today's announcement. Obama has turned to Biden -- who earned an F in 2008 from the Natioal Rifle Association for his support of gun control -- for several high-profile assignments, including overseeing passage of the stimulus package in 2009. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats will hold a press conference today calling for the "swift passage" of legislation that would ban the manufacture of assault magazines like those used in Newtown. Carney said Tuesday that Obama was "actively supportive" of legislation like that reintroduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. to revive an assault-weapon ban that expired in 2004.
Carney said the president also supported ending a loophole that allowed Americans to skirt federal background checks by purchasing assault weapons at gun shows, where standard background checks may be waived.
"And there are other elements of gun legislation that he could support," Carney said, adding that the president would be "interested in looking" at legislation on high-capacity magazines.
One reason that last week's killing spree was so deadly is that gunman Adam Lanza had large-capacity magazine clips that allowed him to fire multiple rounds before having to reload.
The National Rifle Association, the nations largest gun lobby, broke its silence Tuesday, saying its members were "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" by the "horrific and senseless murders." The NRA, which has successfully pushed back against efforts to trim gun rights, plans a news conference Friday and said in the release that it's "prepared to offer meaningful contributions" to prevent another such massacre.