Obama uses Newtown shooting to guilt Republicans into passing his fiscal cliff legislation

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert PoliticsDecember 19, 2012

President Barack Obama attempted to guilt Republicans in Congress into passing his desired fiscal cliff legislation today by tying it to the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn.

During the Q&A session of his gun control press conference this afternoon, Obama hinted that Congress should pass his fiscal cliff plan in light of the Newtown shooting.

“If there’s one thing that we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important,” he said.

Obama held the press conference to announce that Vice President Joe Biden will head an interagency task force focused on studying and proposing new gun control and mental health laws. However, he spent more time discussing the fiscal cliff than the task force, as reporters seemed to be more interested in the upcoming tax hike on Americans than the President’s desire to ban certain types of guns and his decision to put Biden at the forefront of that initiative.

Ironically, the President said toward the end of the presser that if we’re – Americans – are not working on passing legislation to keep our children safer, then nothing else matters (except the fiscal cliff of course).

During the time that he did spend talking about guns, the President said that political gridlock was no longer an excuse to not talk about gun control.

“There is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” President Obama said. “I will use all the powers of this office to help prevent tragedies like this. We can’t prevent them all but it can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy but that can’t be an excuse for us not to try.”

The President said he is confident that Biden will take this task force “seriously” over the next couple months. He also noted that Biden, a strong proponent of gun controls, helped write and sponsor the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which included a ban on assault weapons like the one used in the Newtown, Conn. shooting last week. The law expired in 2004.

He stressed that this task force “will not be your typical Washington commission.” The task force will also include members of the Cabinet and outside organizations, and will be required to provide a report to the President by the end of the year. The President did not specify, however, which Cabinet members or outside organizations will be included in the commission, nor did he talk about specific legislation. But White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said yesterday at a press-conference, the President would support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) proposed bill to ban assault weapons.

“He is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Carney told reporters on Tuesday. “[The President] supports — and would support legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole, and there are other elements of gun law — gun legislation that he could support.”

Feinstein’s proposed legislation would include an outright ban on assault weapons, tightening of gun sales at gun shows and a limitation on the ammunition magazine capacities of weapons.

When asked about specifics on the mental health policies, Carney would not go into details.

As the debate over guns picks up across the country, many politicians on both sides of the aisle have proposed wide-ranging changes in policy, from outright bans of all assault weapons to allowing teachers and school officials to carry concealed weapons.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association finally broke its silence on Tuesday with a statement that read in part, “Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

During his press conference today the President said he hoped the NRA “will do some self-reflection” in the coming days in the wake of the recent tragedy.

The NRA has plans for a press conference in Washington on Friday, but they have not announced what they plan to discuss at it.

This piece has been updated to include quotes and information from Obama’s presser. Additional commentary by Francesca Chambers and Neal Gallagher. 

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