Vice President Biden, with Attorney General Eric Holder at left, speaks during a meeting with victims' groups and gun safety organizations in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Jan. 9.(Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
WASHINGTON -- As the White House gears up its effort to stem gun
violence in the aftermath of last month's mass shooting at a Connecticut
elementary school, President Obama is considering taking unilateral
action to begin tackling the issue.
The White House won't say
specifically what actions the president is weighing, but Vice President
Biden on Wednesday made clear that the use of presidential "executive
order" is very much on the table. Biden is heading a task force on gun
violence that will develop a broad set of recommendations for Obama.
MORE: Biden: Obama may take 'executive action' on gun control
president is going to act," Biden said at the start of a task force
meeting with representatives of gun safety and victims' groups. "There
are executive orders; there's executive action that can be taken. We
haven't decided what that is yet. But we're compiling it all with the
help of the attorney general and the rest of the Cabinet members, as
well as legislative action that we believe is required."
Biden will hold a similar session with hunters and gun owners groups,
including a representative from the National Rifle Association, and a
separate meeting with entertainment industry officials. The NRA, the
largest and most powerful gun rights group, declined to comment on
Biden's suggestion that Obama is pondering taking executive action.
NRA, which has said in the aftermath of last month's shooting tragedy
that it opposes new gun legislation, was low-key about its expectations
for the meeting with Biden. "We got an invite late Friday," spokesman
Andrew Arulanandam said. "We are sending a representative to hear what
they have to say."
MORE: Pace of gun bills continues despite Congress' absence
Obama has endorsed calls from some Democratic
lawmakers to reinstate an assault-weapons ban, restrict the sizes of
high-capacity ammunition magazines and tighten background checks - all
requiring legislative action.
But 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.
MORE: Gun sales spike in Jacksonville
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 an ATF director. The federal agency charged with enforcing gun laws has gone without a confirmed director for six years.