House Speaker John A. Boehner listens to a question during a news conference… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John A. Boehner rejected calls from Democrats to schedule a vote on new gun restrictions before the end of the year, saying he wants to wait for recommendations from a newly formed White House task force before committing to a legislative response to the mass shooting at a Connecticut school.
“When the vice president's recommendations come forward, we'll certainly take them into consideration,’’ Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday in his first public comments on calls for new gun legislation since the slaying of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “But at this point I think our hearts and souls ought to be to think about those victims in this horrible tragedy.”
President Obama on Wednesday said he had asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force to come up with initiatives to stem gun violence by the end of next month. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and fellow Democrats have pressed for an immediate vote on a long-stalled bill that would ban ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds.
Obama has outlined a slightly slower pace for action, urging Congress to hold a vote “in a timely manner” in the new year.
Both Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill say they are trying to seize on what appears to be a burst of momentum behind gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy. Similar efforts initiated after other high-profile shootings faltered after national attention veered elsewhere.
Biden held the first meeting of the task force Thursday, gathering several cabinet members and White House officials with a group of local law enforcement leaders. In remarks before the meeting, the vice president noted his work on the 1994 crime bill, which banned the sale of some assault weapons, and said he would again be working closely with police groups to craft proposals.
“What I think the public has learned about you is you have a much more holistic view of how to deal with violence on our streets and in our country that you’re ever given credit for,” Biden told the law enforcement officials. “I want to hear your views because, for anything to get done, we’re going to need your advocacy.”