Acknowledging that gun control will be part of the solution President Obama will pursue in response to the slayings of 26 small children and educators at a Connecticut elementary school, the White House said there is no single solution or legislative fix to stem the scourge of gun violence in the country.
Gun violence in America is a "complex problem that will require a complex solution," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday, declining to forecast specific legislative proposals the president plans to pursue in the weeks and months ahead.
"No single piece of legislation, no single solution, will fully address the problem," Mr. Carney said. "I don't have a specific agenda to announce to you today."
Echoing the president's remarks to victims' families and members of the surrounding community at a vigil Sunday night in Newtown, Conn., "in the coming weeks," Mr. Carney said, the White House would use "whatever power this office holds" to engage law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, educators and others toward efforts to prevent more gun-related tragedies.
"Because what choice to we have?" Mr. Obama said. "We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard?"
"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?" he asked.
Responding to questions, Mr. Carney repeatedly noted Mr. Obama's support for reinstating the assault weapons ban, which prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms from when Congress first passed the bill in the fall of 1994 to 2004, when the law expired.
But he would not say whether Mr. Obama was referring to gun rights when he spoke Sunday of the "price of freedom."
"He meant broadly — those and other issues," he said.
Mr. Carney also acknowledged Washington's powerful gun lobby, predicting that any effort to impose new gun restrictions would face serious obstacles.
Gun-control activists are urging the president to take up new restrictions in the aftermath of the Connecticut massacre. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who co-authored the 1994 assault-weapons ban, on Sunday pledged to introduce new legislation at the beginning of the next Congress.
A gun-control petition posted on the White House's website had attracted nearly 150,000 signatures in three days since the Friday shootings at the elementary school.
At least for now, Mr. Obama appears to be holding at bay those gun-control advocates calling for him to seize the moment and take immediate action.
"In the coming weeks — he did not talk about months or years — he will engage in an effort to bring an array of people in the American public together to move forward to try to prevent these tragedies from happening again," Mr. Carney said.
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