He said the reaction to this massacre is markedly different from what he saw after mass shootings in Columbine, Colo., and Virginia Tech; the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona; and the recent killings in Aurora, Colo.
“The response to those shootings was significant, but I have never seen the outrage to what we’ve seen in the past 48 hours,” he said. “The tone of the commentary has shifted from ‘Do we do something?’ to ‘What do we do?’ The will is there right now.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has launched an online petition to “demand a plan” from Mr. Obama and Congress to end gun violence.
Mr. Bloomberg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the issue should be Mr. Obama’s “No. 1 agenda.”
“He’s the president of the United States, and if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “That is roughly the number of Americans killed in the whole Vietnam War.”
A petition on the White House website to “immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress” has received more than 120,000 signatures since Friday. The White House must respond within 30 days to petitions that acquire at least 25,000 signatures.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, Washington Republican and chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, cautioned against introducing legislation immediately.
“We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place,” she said. “I think we have to be careful about new, suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kinds of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”
The country’s response to the Sandy Hook shootings was a topic in pulpits across the country on Sunday.
Speaking to worshippers at the Washington National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gary R. Hall announced that “enough is enough” and that it was time for the church to take up the gun-control issue and not put it down.
“What does it say about us as a society that we continue to tolerate so much violence against children?” Mr. Hall said. “To my way of thinking, the best way for us to mourn the Sandy Hook shooting is to mobilize the faith community for gun control. … Today we grieve, but soon we act.”
Gun rights advocates say the violence might have been mitigated if people in the school had been armed.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said he wished Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook, who was shot as she ran and attempted to overpower gunman Adam Lanza, had access to a rifle during the shooting spree Friday.
“Hearing the heroic stories of the principal, lunging, trying to protect. … I wish to God she had had an M-4 [carbine rifle] in her office locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out, and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he kills those precious kids,” Mr. Gohmert said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said that moves to take away assault weapons wouldn’t stop events like the one in Connecticut.