A day after President Obama pledged to put his office’s full weight behind preventing incidents such as Friday’s schoolhouse massacre in Connecticut, the White House avoided committing to specific measures that could alleviate what it called the “scourge of gun violence.”
As increasing numbers of moderate Democrats said that the school shootings, which claimed 26 lives including those of 20 children, had altered their thinking on gun control, the administration gave little clue to what policy changes Obama hinted at during his Sunday-night address in Newtown.
“It’s a complex problem that will require a complex solution,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “No single piece of legislation, no single action will fully address the problem, so I don’t have a specific agenda to announce to you today. I would simply point you to what the president said last night about moving forward in coming weeks, and I would look to him to do that.”
Asked if the national mood of alarm and resolve stemming from Friday’s incident offered an opportunity for Obama to move swiftly on the issue, Carney indicated that the shock from the carnage would likely prove durable.
“I think that it’s hard to imagine people in any near term somehow forgetting the rawness of what happened on Friday,” Carney said. “It is hard to think about 20 6- and 7-year-olds and what happened to them on Friday, and imagine that in a few weeks or a few months that pain would not still be incredibly intense and present.”
Obama on Sunday said he planned to engage in “the coming weeks,” which span a docket already quite crowded with negotiations over the fiscal cliff, a planned administration push on immigration reform, and other long-simmering initiatives. Carney declined to say where on that agenda a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to curbing mass violence could fit.
“I’m not going to rank priorities. This is clearly extremely important,” he said.
Carney also struggled to enumerate anti-gun-violence achievements that Obama could claim in his first four years, pointing to tightened background checks, but declining to provide specific steps to clear the streets of "weapons of war," as Obama once called assault weapons.
"There’s no question ... that the scourge of gun violence is a problem that has not sufficiently been addressed," Carney said.