The Washington Times - July 23, 2012, 09:13AM

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeated his calls Monday for a national discussion of gun laws in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Colorado.

Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he thinks the country needs to consider a new ban on semiautomatic weapons and find better ways to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

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He also challenged President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to clarify their stances on gun control, and deflected criticism from officials who say it is too soon after the shooting to discuss its legal and political ramifications.

“People say it’s bad politics to address the issue, but I think they’re wrong,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “You ask one of the families, ‘Is this the time to focus on how to keep other children from getting killed?’ ” I think they’d be on the side of do it now.”

Mr. Bloomberg jumped on the issue of gun control just hours after police say suspected gunman James Holmes opened fire in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater, killing 12 people.

Some officials have disagreed with Mr. Bloomberg and have painted the shooting as more of a mental health issue.

They have also argued out that the explosives rigged inside Mr. Holmes’ apartment show he could have perpetuated the same kind of attack using a bomb even if he didn’t have access to guns.

Appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said he is willing to talk about gun laws but isn’t ready to jump to the conclusion that firearms are to blame.

“Everything should be looked at, but to think that somehow increased gun control is the answer, that would have to be proved,” he said.