Speaking to a nation raw from its latest mass shooting, US President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday to pursue "common-sense" measures to make sure mentally unbalanced people cannot get their hands on guns.
Obama did not mention any specific law or measure but said he would work with both parties in Congress to try to achieve a "consensus around violence reduction" in the wake of last Friday's massacre at a cinema in Colorado.
"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms," he told the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans, referring to part of the US Constitution.
"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," he said.
Calls for a re-examination of America's gun laws mounted in the aftermath of the tragedy in Aurora as it emerged that suspect James Holmes bought four weapons legally.
Over eight weeks, Holmes stocked up on the Internet on 6,300 rounds of ammunition: 3,000 for his .233 semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, another 3,000 for his two Glock pistols, and 300 cartridges for his pump-action shotgun.
Holmes, a 24-year-old graduate student, also bought a special magazine for his AR-15 military-style assault rifle that enabled him to fire up to 50 to 60 rounds per minute.
Obama said he had already stepped up background checks on those who buy weapons in the wake of last year's shooting in Tucson, Arizona that left six people dead and Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords fighting for her life.
"But even though we have taken these actions, they're not enough. Other steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress. This has been true for some time, particularly when it touches on the issue of guns," he said.
"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.
"A mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common-sense."
A group of Democratic lawmakers pushed to ban assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines Tuesday in the wake of the Colorado massacre, but congressional leaders are unwilling to touch the volatile issue.
Advocates of stricter gun control measures argue that America is more prone to mass shootings than other countries because the law in many states is too lenient.
They have been disappointed by Obama, but political pragmatists see that he could be committing electoral suicide if he took up such an explosive issue at the current time.
The gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is well-funded and a powerful player in Washington. It argues that crazy people do crazy things and says that clamping down on fundamental American liberties will achieve nothing.
Several key battlegrounds in November's elections -- Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, for example -- have gun-friendly populations that remain wedded to their right to bear arms.