President Obama today justified his failure to address gun control earlier in his administration by saying he was busy with other issues.
“I’ve been president of the United States,” Obama said defensively in response to a question by ABC’s Jake Tapper, who had asked, “Where were you?” The president asserted he had to deal with priorities like the economy and health care. “I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,” he said
Obama spoke at a White House briefing room press conference staged after he had announced a new task force led by Vice President Biden that will come up with recommendations by January for for addressing the massacre last week in Newtown, Connecticut.
Obama seemed to acknowledge that he might have erred in waiting so long.
“I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington,” he said.
In announcing his new task force, Obama mentioned the need to look at access to mental health services and to address a culture that “glorifies” guns and violence. But he made clear that the panel’s focus will be on gun control, asserting that most Americans support curbs on “assault weapons,” background checks for private gun sales, and restrictions on high capacity ammunition clips.
Obama said that he would move promptly once he gets the recommendations next month, and that he expects Congress to act “in a timely manner” this year to pass new legislation.
The president did not mention any executive orders or other unilateral actions he might take, but he did raise the specter of such things, saying, “I will use all the powers of this office” to curb gun violence.
Obama also sought to reassure Americans that he does not want to ban guns. “I believe that the second amendment guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms,” he said.