By NEDRA PICKLER
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House is reporting progress on President Barack Obama’s initiatives to reduce gun violence, but says the most important step would be getting a reluctant Congress to pass new firearms laws.
Vice President Joe Biden was announcing Tuesday that the administration has completed or significantly advanced 21 of the 23 executive actions that Obama ordered in January in response to the Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six staff members.
Biden’s remarks at the White House come while Obama is traveling in Europe. They are meant to keep up pressure on lawmakers after the Senate voted down a gun bill in April that would have expanded background checks for firearms purchases.
But White House aides can’t point to a single senator who has switched positions to make passage possible, although they say they are working to find lawmakers willing to compromise with them.
Biden was announcing that the progress includes developing a federal emergency response planning guide for schools and houses of worship to prepare for a shooting, tornado or other disasters, and expanding federal training for first responders to react to a shooting.
The two executive orders with the most remaining work are finalizing regulations to require insurers to cover mental health at parity with medical benefits, expected later this year, and putting a confirmed director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Obama’s nominee to head the ATF, B. Todd Jones, had a Senate hearing last week but has little chance of advancing amid political wrangling over a position that hasn’t been confirmed in six years.