Barack Obama ... inching towards gun control measures. Photo: AP
WASHINGTON: Barack Obama would support legislation restoring a ban on assault weapons and requiring background checks of buyers at gun shows as steps toward preventing more mass shootings, his spokesman says.
The US President would also consider backing restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines such as the one used by the gunman who killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said.
As part of his vow to pursue solutions to gun violence in the aftermath of the December 14 shootings in Newtown, the President plans to involve mental health professionals, law enforcement officials and educators in developing a response.
"It's clear that as a nation we haven't done enough to address the scourge of gun violence in this country," Mr Carney said at a briefing. "It's a complex problem that requires more than one solution."
On Tuesday the President met the vice-president, Joe Biden, senior aides and Cabinet members including the attorney-general, Eric Holder, the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and the education secretary, Arne Duncan, to discuss ways to respond to the shooting. Mr Carney said there was no timetable for any recommendations.
Mr Obama also talked to Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has become one of the first pro-gun rights congressmen to say that some restrictions on firearms should be discussed in responding to the Connecticut killings.
Other Democrats pressed for restoring restrictions on certain military-style assault weapons. The law was enacted in 1994 when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress. It expired in 2004, and wasn't renewed as Republicans held the presidency and congressional majorities.
One particular area of focus for restrictions is the ammunition capacity of weapons. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Adam Lanza, 20, used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle with 30-round magazines as his main weapon, police have said.
"There is only one use for high-capacity magazines and that is to kill a lot of people quickly," Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, told reporters on Tuesday.
In another sign that the debate over firearms may be shifting, the New York-based investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP said it would sell Freedom Group Inc., which manufactures the Bushmaster AR-15.
Cerberus made its announcement just hours after the California Treasurer, Bill Lockyer, said he would propose that the state's public pension funds, the two largest in the US, divest investments in firearms manufacturers that make guns prohibited under state law.
Congressional proposals for tightening access to firearms may be bolstered by policy options from the Justice Department. Obama has vowed to "use whatever power this office holds" to prevent another mass shooting.
An ABC News/Washington Post survey released on Monday found 54 per cent of respondents backing new limits on gun rights, with 43 per cent opposed. When asked about banning ammunition clips that contain more than 10 bullets, 59 per cent supported the idea, while 38 per cent opposed it.