President Launches Effort to Prevent Gun Violence

President Obama, returning to the White House Sunday night after attending a vigil for the victims of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut

President Obama has chosen Vice President Biden to lead a new national effort to stop gun violence.

An official announcement was expected on Wednesday at the White House.

On Sunday, at an interfaith vigil for the victims of last Friday’s deadly shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut, Mister Obama pledged to do whatever was in his power to stop future gun violence.

Twenty first graders and six grownups were shot and killed at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School Elementary by a gunman who had shot his way into the building.

The man also killed his own mother before taking his own life.

The killings have prompted loud calls for tougher gun laws in this country – even from some people who had previously opposed them.

Mister Obama had not made any specific proposals as of Wednesday morning.

But according to a White House spokesman, he supports bringing back the national ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

That’s the type of weapon used in Friday’s killings, according to investigators.

The White House says the President would also support a new law that requires background checks on people who buy guns at gun shows and from private dealers.

Right now, there’s no such requirement.

Those background checks are designed to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of criminals or people who are mentally ill.

And the spokesman said Mister Obama would support legislation that would put tighter controls on the ammunition used in high-powered weapons, to keep potential killers from getting their hands on huge numbers of bullets.

The new anti-violence campaign was also expected to look at how the nation deals with people with mental health problems.

Reports out of Connecticut say the gunman there had a history of mental illness.

And according to a report by Hearst Connecticut newspapers, there was no indication that he was taking any medications — or getting any other treatment — to control it.

“It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking about gun violence in a report by the Associated Press.  “It calls for not only re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.”

Opponents of tougher gun laws cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the amendment that says Americans have the right to “keep and bear arms.”

But even some gun-rights supporters are now saying that something has got to change.

“I will defend the Second Amendment as long as I live,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, in a report by the Martinsburg (West Virginia) Journal.  “But also, I believe that there’s a responsible, sensible way that we should be conducting ourselves.

“Every child should have a safe place,” he added.