US President Barack Obama has vowed to pursue a cross-party deal on new measures to reduce gun crime across America. His comments come in the wake of a movie theatre shooting in Colorado, which left 12 people dead.
Addressing a country reeling from its latest mass shooting, Obama pledged late on Wednesday to introduce "common sense" measures to combat gun violence.
He vowed to work with both political parties and religious groups to ensure that guns didn't fall into the hands of criminals.
"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.
"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.
"These steps shouldn't be controversial," Obama added. "They should be common sense."
Calls for change in gun law
It was the first time Obama had commented on gun control since 12 people were shot dead in a midnight showing of the new Batman movie last Friday. The suspected gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes, is currently in police custody.
Information suggesting that Holmes had legally purchased four weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle, sparked calls for a re-examination of America's gun laws. Under the US Constitution's Second Amendment, America's have the right to bear arms.
Previous attempts to impose gun controls have been met, however, with fierce resistance from the powerful lobbying group the National Rifle Association and many Republican members of Congress. That makes the issue of gun control extremely decisive in an election year and Obama was careful not to make any specific law change proposals.
On Wednesday his Republican opponent Mitt Romney voiced his opposition to changes to gun legislation. He argued that a tightening of rules wouldn't have prevented the Colorado shooting.
"I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws," Romney said in an interview with America's NBC television network.
"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."
ccp/sej (AFP, dpa, Reuters)