WASHINGTON — President Obama this week will embrace a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence that will call for major legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and lay out 19 separate actions the president could take by invoking the power of his office, lawmakers who were briefed on the plan said Monday.
Lawmakers and other officials said that the president could use a public event as soon as Wednesday to signal his intention to engage in the biggest Congressional fight over guns in nearly two decades, focusing on the heightened background checks and including efforts to ban assault weapons and their high-capacity clips. But given the difficulty of pushing new rules through a bitterly divided Congress, Mr. Obama will also promise to act on his own to reduce gun violence wherever possible.
Actions the president could take on his own are likely to include imposing new limits on guns imported from overseas, compelling federal agencies to improve sharing of mental health records and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence, according to those briefed on the effort.
White House aides believe Mr. Obama can also ratchet up enforcement of existing laws, including tougher prosecution of people who lie on their background checks.
At a news conference on Monday, exactly one month after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Obama said a task force led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had “presented me now with a list of sensible, common-sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kinds of violence we saw at Newtown doesn’t happen again. He added: “My starting point is not to worry about the politics. My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”
The administration’s strategy reflects the uncertainty of gun politics in America and the desire by White House officials to address the Connecticut shooting while also confronting the broader deficiencies in the country’s criminal justice and mental health systems.
By proposing to use the independent power of his office, Mr. Obama is inviting political attacks by gun owners who have already expressed fear that he will abuse that authority to restrict their rights. Representative Steve Stockman, Republican of Texas, threatened Monday to file articles of impeachment if the president seeks to regulate guns with executive orders. “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary,” Mr. Stockman said in a statement.
White House officials and Democratic lawmakers said that there are clear limits to what the president can and cannot do, and that Mr. Obama has no plans to push beyond what he would need Congressional authority to accomplish.
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama’s legislative effort will face intense opposition from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and the lawmakers they support with millions of dollars at election time and who see gun rights as a defining issue in their districts. But Mr. Obama’s allies see a rare opening for tighter gun rules after Congress has shied away from the politically charged issue for years.
“He’s putting together a pretty comprehensive list of what could be done to make a difference in this area,” said Representative Mike Thompson of California, who is heading a Democratic task force in the House. “There’s some huge, huge holes in the process that are set up to keep communities safe. We need to close those holes.”