And Obama may give schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety. But he is not expected to call for armed guards in schools, a position promoted by the NRA.
The gun lobby released an online video Tuesday that called Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed Secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while not committing to installing armed guards in all schools.
Gun control proponent Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who met with Biden on Monday, said the president is also likely to take executive action to ensure better state reporting of mental health and other records that go into the federal background check database. But he, too, acknowledged there were clear limits to what Obama can do without Congress' say-so.
"You can't change the law through executive order," Scott said.
White House officials signaled that Obama would seek to rally public support for the measures he puts forward, perhaps holding events around the country or relying on Organizing for America, his still-operational presidential campaign.
During his announcement Wednesday, Obama will be joined children from across the U.S. who wrote letters to him about gun violence and school safety.
One of those children, a Maryland 8-year-old named Grant, wrote: "It's a free country but I recommend there needs (to) be a limit with guns. Please don't let people own machine guns or other powerful guns like that."
It's unclear how much political capital Obama will exert in pressing for congressional action.
The White House and Congress will soon be consumed by three looming fiscal deadlines. And the president has also pledged to tackle comprehensive immigration reform early this year, another effort that will require Republicans' support and one in which Obama may be more likely to get their backing.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has warned the White House that it will be at least three months before the Senate considers gun legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said immigration, not gun control, is at the top of his priority list after the fiscal fights.
House Republican leaders are expected to wait for any action by the Senate before deciding how — or whether — to proceed with any gun measure.