President Obama on Wednesday, called for "common sense" approach to gun control following the Aurora shooting. He said he believes "that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers... not on the streets of our cities."
AP reports that the Brady Campaign on Thursday also called on Obama and Romney to lead a search for solutions to gun violence. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said both candidates owe voters concrete plans about gun control. According to the group's president Dan Gross,"We truly believe, as a nation, we are better than this. We're better than a nation where shootings like the one in Aurora, Colo., happen with such frequency."
Although, Obama offered no specific policy proposals, he pledged to support "common sense" restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. According to The Guardian, in his first direct statement on gun control after the Aurora massacre, Obama called for "a consensus around violence reduction" and said assault rifles "belong on the battlefield."
Obama told the National Urban League convention in New Orleans, Louisiana:
"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I think we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation. That hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage... But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller."
"Every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theatre. I'm going to continue to work with members of both parties and with religious groups and with civic organisations to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction."
Obama also called for new restrictions that will bar mentally unstable people from purchasing weapons. He said: "These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."
The president said he would work with lawmakers to reduce violence "at every level." He urged that people should appreciate there was much in the circumstances that lead to gun violence beyond the immediate control of the government. He said: "We must also understand that when a child opens fire on other children, there's a hole in his heart that no government can fill."
The Huffington Post notes that Obama has avoided the gun debate in recent years although he is known to have advocated for gun control in the past. Obama had declared at the Democratic National Convention in 2008: "The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."
Obama's recent comments on gun control come as the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, issued evasive statements on the politically sensitive issue. Romney said the US does not need gun laws and argued that "changing the hearts of the American people" was the right approach.
Romney said more restrictive gun laws would not prevent such incidents as the Aurora shooting. He told NBC's Brian Williams, in an interview in London, "I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening."
Romney's present position would appear to be in conflict with his position as governor of Massachusetts, the Los Angeles Times notes. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a bill outlawing assault weapons in 2002. He described assault weapons such as AR-15 as "instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people."
The Los Angeles Times accuses Romney of "duck-and-cover" tactics when, instead of responding to NBC's Brian Williams' question whether the Colorado incident should "start a national conversation about whether an AR-15 [rifle] belongs in the hands of a citizen," and "whether a citizen should be able to buy 6,000 rounds off the Internet," he spoke instead about "bombs" and "other devices."
Although, all the guns James Eagan Holmes used in the shooting were purchased legally, Romney answered Williams in the Wednesday interview: "Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices, and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence commented on Romney's evasive response: "Gov. Romney's remarks during the Brian Williams interview just show how desperate he is to avoid any meaningful conversation about the role of guns in the Aurora, Colo. tragedy or, for that matter, in the 32 gun murders that happen every day."
After Obama's statement on Wednesday, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, challenged Obama to move beyond rhetoric, saying Americans will not be satisfied with words alone. He said: "The president said very similar things in his last campaign. A speech is not a plan. An endorsement of a measure is not a solution."
The Brady Campaign says 32 people are killed by guns in the U.S. each day and 48,000 will die in the next president's term if the current pattern holds.
Although the subject of gun control is very politically sensitive and candidates steer clear of it in the election season, a study published on Tuesday showed there is widespread support for certain gun control measures even among gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. The Guardian reports Republican pollster Frank Luntz, was commissioned by a group of US mayors who are campaigning for tighter gun controls to do a survey on views on gun control. Luntz reported his survey found that NRA members support tighter gun controls in opposition to the organization's leadership. According to Luntz, they favor a ban on selling guns to people suspected to be on law enforcement watchlists and introducing a law requiring gun owners to report missing or stolen weapons to police.