America's pro-gun lobby has claimed any attempt to ban powerful assault weapons will fail in Congress.
The National Rifle Association said supporters of a ban do not have enough votes.
The NRA has so far prevented passage of another assault weapons ban like the one that expired in 2004. But some politicians say last month's school shooting in Connecticut, where a gunman with a legally purchased high-powered rifle shot dead 20 young children and six adults, has transformed the debate and that Americans are ready for stricter gun laws.
The NRA, with a history of punishing politicians who stray from its point of view, disagrees.
"When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions," NRA president David Keene told CNN. "You don't want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress."
Mr Obama could act through the executive power of his office instead, and vice president Joe Biden has said that is an option. Mr Obama is expected to announce the next steps on gun violence after he is inaugurated over the weekend and enters his second term.
Meanwhile, senators plan to introduce a bill that would ban assault weapons and limit the size of ammunition magazines. Democrat Dianne Feinstein has promised to make a renewed push for a ban on assault weapons. Republican John McCain responded with a flat-out "no" when asked whether Congress would pass a ban on assault weapons.
The NRA and other pro-gun groups insist that gun control conflicts with the constitution, while others say the country's founders more than two centuries ago could not have imagined the kind of high-powered guns available now.
Meanwhile Mr Obama said he was reviewing a list of proposals from Mr Biden and expects to present specifics later this week.
He said stronger background checks, a "meaningful" ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines are all ideas he thinks make sense. He was not sure how many of the measures can pass Congress, but he can also use executive power. He said he wanted Congress to set aside politics and focus on common-sense steps that can make a difference.