Obama vows action on gun violence
US President Barack Obama has pledged to put his "full weight" behind a legislative package next year aimed at tackling gun violence, recalling the school gun rampage that killed 20 young pupils as the worst day of his presidency.
In an interview with NBC television's Meet The Press, Mr Obama voiced scepticism about the proposal by the National Rifle Association, the leading gun rights lobby group, to place armed guards at schools in the aftermath of the December 14 deadly assault at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Instead, the president vowed to rally the American people around an agenda to limit gun violence, adding that he still supports increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and high capacity bullet magazines. He left no doubt it will be one of his top priorities next year.
"It is not enough for us to say, 'This is too hard so we're not going to try'," Mr Obama said.
"I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognise that we can't have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids," he added. "And, yes, it's going to be hard."
The president added that he is ready to meet with Republicans and Democrats, anyone with a stake in the issue. The school shootings, coming as families prepared for the Christmas holiday, elevated the issue of gun violence to the forefront of public attention. Six adult staff members were also killed. Gunman Adam Lanza committed suicide, apparently as police closed in. Earlier, he had killed his mother at the home they shared.
The tragedy immediately prompted calls for greater gun controls. But the National Rifle Association is strongly resisting those efforts, arguing instead that schools should have armed guards for protection. Some gun enthusiasts have rushed to buy semiautomatic rifles of the type used by Lanza, fearing sales may soon be restricted.
Mr Obama seemed unimpressed by the NRA proposal. "I am sceptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools," he said. "And I think the vast majority of the American people are sceptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem."
The president said he intends to press the issue with the public. He said: "The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away.
"It certainly won't feel like that to me. This is something that - you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."