(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By Aamer Madhani and Jackie Kucinich, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - President Obama will unveil a comprehensive gun-safety plan on Wednesday, a follow-up to his promise to come up with a proposal to bolster gun control in the aftermath of last month's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
The president's package will include calls for Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and address the issue of high-capacity magazines as well as strengthen federal background checks of people buying guns---all are issues that Obama has previously endorsed and would require Congressional action, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney. But Carney declined to spell out what else might be in the plan.
"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 children and educators 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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Biden last week made clear that the use of presidential "executive order" is very much on the table.
Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who was among those wounded in a mass shooting in a 2011 mass shooting that left six dead and critically wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, said he wasn't familiar with what executive orders were on the table. But Baber said that Congress needed to act to help stem gun violence.
"Generally speaking the only way I think we're going to be able to get anything done to reduce these mass shooting is by legislative action, by the Congress taking steps to enact laws that deal with the problem," Barber said.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., said that Biden told House Democrats that Organizing for America, the Democratic political organization that has previously mobilized supporters on the 2009 stimulus plan and the Obama's signature healthcare reform act,would be used to sell the president's proposal to the American people.
"That's what we need," she said.
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."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the television program Nevada Week in Review that he doubted an assault weapons ban could pass the Republican-controlled House. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., did not echo Reid's view.
"I don't have an assessment right now," Hoyer said, "I'm hopeful that past history will not be prologue to what we're able to do after seeing some of these great tragedies that we've witnessed far too often."
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.
Contributing: Susan Davis