"While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil," Obama said at a mid-day announcement at the White House, "if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try it."
Acknowledging the difficulty of the Congressional fight ahead, Obama appealed for public support, slamming - as he did in a press conference earlier this week - conservative commentators and the most vocal pro-gun activists for "ginning up" opposition to gun reforms for political reasons.
"I will put everything I've got into this and so will Joe [Biden], but I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it," he said.
Some of the main legislative proposals backed by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are:
requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private sales
banning "military-style" assault weapons
limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
strengthening penalties for gun trafficking
The president also laid out a series of 23 executive actions - free from a Congressional blockade -- intended to strengthen existing laws, augment mental health measures and promote federal research on gun crime through the Centers for Disease Control.
The executive actions announced included stricter prosecution of would-be gun buyers who fail background checks as well as new requirements for federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
The president's recommendations also direct administration officials to "clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes" and to "release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities."
Obama and Biden were joined at the White House event by families of the Newtown school shooting victims as well as by four children who wrote the president after the tragedy that left 20 young students dead.
"This is our first task as a society: keeping our children safe," Obama said. "This is how we will be judged, and their voices should compel us to change."
Biden, who led the presidential task-force on gun safety in the wake of the Newtown shootings, praised the activists who met with his staff over the last week to help build the list of recommendations.
"The world has changed and it's demanding action," Biden said.
While some of Obama's long-expected proposals - like universal background checks - garner overwhelming public support, the outlawing of certain types of weapons may be less of a slam dunk for lawmakers eager to appease constituents.
A recent poll from the Pew Research Center showed that a majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- back a ban on "assault-style weapons," with 40 percent saying they don't approve of a ban. But a partisan breakdown shows that only about four in ten Republicans support such restrictions, compared to a broad majority of Democrats.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced Wednesday that his panel will hold its first hearing on issues relating to gun violence on Jan. 30.
The pushback to the new proposals began earlier in the week, culminating in high tempers on both sides Tuesday night after the National Rifle Association released an ad criticizing Obama's dismissal of the gun lobby's proposal to increase armed security in schools.
"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" a narrator asks in the short ad. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security."
The ad prompted outcry from observers who said the First Family should be off limits for such advertisements, while NRA backers say their focus is on school safety rather than on the president's daughters themselves.
"Whoever thinks the ad is about President Obama's daughters are missing the point completely or they're trying to change the subject," said spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "This ad is about keeping our children safe. And the president said he was skeptical about the NRA proposal to put policemen in all schools in this country. Yet he and his family are beneficiaries of multiple law enforcement officers surrounding them 24 hours a day."
White House spokesman Jay Carney shot back that the ad is "cowardly."
"Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight," he said. "But to go so far as to make the safety of the President's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly."
Here, according to the White House, are the 23 executive actions that he and his administration will do:
1. "Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system."
2. "Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system."
3. "Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system."
4. "Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks."
5. "Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun."
6. "Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers."
7. "Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign."
8. "Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission)."
9. "Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations."
10. "Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement."
11. "Nominate an ATF director."
12. "Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations."
13. "Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime."
14. "Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence."
15. "Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies."
16. "Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes."
17. "Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities."
18. "Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers."
19. "Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education."
20. "Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover."
21. "Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges."
22. "Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations."
23. "Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health."