Following last week’s slaughter of 20 children in Connecticut, President Barack Obama on Wednesday held his first-ever press conference about gun control, but the press corps insisted on asking at least the first six questions about the so-called fiscal cliff.
The president took to the podium in the the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room — which was named after a staffer who was shot during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — to say that he had tasked Vice President Joe Biden with spearheading an effort to recommend policy changes like banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
“It won’t be easy, but that can’t be an excuse not to try,” Obama told reporters. “And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Ultimately, if this effort is to succeed, it’s going to require the help of the American people. It’s going to require all of you.”
With that, the president invited the press corps to ask questions, beginning with The Associated Press’ Ben Feller, who wanted to know, “Are we likely to go over the cliff?”
In fact, reporters ignored the Connecticut shootings for at least the first six questions, until White House staff insisted that the next question be about the topic at hand and USA Today‘s David Jackson asked why Biden’s effort would be any different than other ineffective Washington, D.C. commissions.
“The idea that we would say, ‘This is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again,’ and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense,” the president insisted. “I have more confidence in the American people than that.”
In the final question of the press conference, ABC’s Jake Tapper noted that the president had done little about gun violence during his first term.
“This is not the first issue of horrific gun violence of your four years,” Tapper said. “Where have you been?”
“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,” Obama explained. “I don’t think I’ve been on vacation. And so, I think all of us have to do some reflection.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Dec. 19, 2012.