WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2012 -- Five days after deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history, President Obama said his administration plans immediate action early next year on proposals to curb an "epidemic of gun violence."
At a morning news conference, Obama announced the formation of a task force to be headed by Vice President Joe Biden that will formulate a package of policy recommendations by January.
"The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing," Obama said. "The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean that we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence."
The president said he intends to push for implementation of the proposals "without delay."
"This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside.
"This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms right now," he said.
While Obama did not offer specifics, he suggested the task force would examine an array of steps to curb gun violence and prevent mass shootings, including legislative measures, mental health resources and a "look more closely at a culture that all-too-often glorifies guns and violence."
He urged Congress to confirm a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which has been without an official leader for six years. Obama also expressed his longstanding desire to see the national background check system strengthened and a ban on the sale of some assault-style weapons reinstated.
"I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," Obama said.
Obama made similar pronouncements following at least four other mass shootings that marked his first term. But few policy changes were made.
"This is not the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?," asked ABC News' Jake Tapper.
"I've been president of the United States, dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don't think I've been on vacation," Obama responded.
In the coming weeks, Biden will lead a working group that includes top officials from the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Education and Health and Human Services to draft an action plan.
Obama met privately Monday with Biden and three members of his Cabinet — Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — to discuss steps forward in the aftermath of Newtown.
The vice president's new role is rooted in his experience as a U.S. Senator with writing and shepherding into law the 1994 Crime Bill and chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees criminal justice issues.
The 1994 Crime Bill included the ban on certain types of semi-automatic rifles (better known as the "assault weapons ban") and new classes of people banned from owning or possessing firearms, in addition to expanding the federal death penalty and the Violence Against Women Act.