"What if Congress did something — anything — to protect our kids from gun violence," U.S. President Barack Obama said in his weekly address about his frustration with the "unfinished business" to control the country's "epidemic of gun violence."
The U.S. leader said he has directed his staff to "look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence," and he is meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to "discuss our options."
"We know that we can't stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one," asked the president, apparently reflecting on lawmakers who have repeatedly failed to take any action that would reduce the epidemic.
Obama said three years ago, a bipartisan "commonsense bill" would have required background checks for "virtually everyone who buys a gun," a measure supported by "some 90 percent of the American people." He said it was also supported by a majority of the National Rifle Association members, but "the gun lobby mobilized against it and the Senate blocked it."
Watch: President Obama's Jan. 1 weekly address
More background checks
The Associated Press said a person familiar with the administration's efforts on gun control expected that Obama would take executive action to set a "reasonable threshold" for when gun sellers would need to perform a background check.
The National Rifle Association opposes new background check requirements, saying studies show criminals usually acquire guns through theft, the black market, or from friends and family members.
Republicans generally have opposed calls for more restrictions.
After recent shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and in San Bernardino, California, House Speaker Paul Ryan linked the shootings to mental illness.
"We need to fix our mental illness laws, our policies. They’re outdated," he told CBS News. "And that is something that we are working on right now."
President Obama said he receives letters from parents, teachers, children and "responsible gun owners" who believe as he does that the Second Amendment to the Constitution "guarantees a right to bear arms; and who share my belief we can protect that right while keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.