Health advocates applaud Obama for gun comments

"For too long, we as a nation have failed to take on this devastating problem in our communities, and we can wait no longer."

The APHA is the latest in a series of health groups to endorse new policy solutions in the wake of last Friday's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Benjamin backed a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and urged better funding for mental health services.

"Like most public health funding at the state level, funding for mental health services has been on the decline in recent years," he wrote.

"We urges you to ensure that state, local and community-based behavioral health systems have the resources they need to provide much-needed care."

He added that given many states' refusal to expand Medicaid under the healthcare law, Obama should "ensure that the Affordable Care Act provides comprehensive coverage for mental health" as part of the Essential Health Benefits provision.

Obama has ordered a working group on violence that will be headed by Vice President Biden.

The panel is tasked with making recommendations to the president by the end of January.