As the country continued to mourn last week’s mass shooting in Colorado — President Obama visited victims’ families there Sunday — lawmakers reignited the debate about whether stricter gun-control laws would have prevented the movie theater massacre that left a dozen people dead.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dodged a question by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” about whether Colorado should revisit its gun laws, saying that shooting suspect James Holmes would have found a way to create “horror” even if he hadn’t been able to acquire guns.
“This wasn’t a Colorado problem. This is a human problem,” said Mr. Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical, he would have found explosives, he would have found something else, some kind of poisonous gas. He would have done something to create this horror.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Sunday that Mr. Obama’s views on gun-control laws hasn’t changed.
“The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law,” Mr. Carney told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One to Colorado. “And that’s his focus right now.”
But gun-control advocates pointed to the types of weapons allegedly used by Mr. Holmes, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the University of Colorado, when the gunman in an Aurora theater at a Thursday midnight showing of the “The Dark Knight Rises” opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
He was dressed in protective clothing that moviegoers assumed was a costume — a common thing to do at superhero movies on opening weekend — and was armed with a 100-round rifle magazine, along with other weapons.
“Weapons of war don’t belong on the streets,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that the country needs to have a “sane” debate about banning military-style assault weapons.
One of Washington’s strongest advocates for gun control, the California Democrat led the effort to ban assault weapons in 1993. She tried to extend the ban for another 10 years when it expired in 2004, but the measure failed in Congress.
“This is a powerful weapon. It had a 100-round drum,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “This is a man who planned, who went in, and his purpose was to kill as many people as he could in a sold-out theater. We’ve got to really sit down and come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America.”
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who became a leading gun-control advocate after her husband was killed and son injured in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting, said mass shooters have one thing in common: a gun that can be loaded with lots of ammunition.
“Police responded in 90 seconds and yet he was able to take down 70 people,” the New York Democrat said.
But like Mr. Hickenlooper, Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, insisted the issue wasn’t about guns, but about an individual who would have found a way to carry out acts of violence no matter what tools were available to him.
“This isn’t an issue about guns, this is an issue about sick, demented individuals,” Mr. Johnson said. “I wish I could wave the magic wand and pass a law to prevent something like this in the future, but I don’t think there’s a solution in Washington.”
While the Colorado shooting has reinserted gun control into the political debate, little is known about what motivated the suspect, described by authorities as seemingly normal.
“He just by every standard appeared normal,” Mr. Hogan said. “He did have friends. He had made connections. He had people he went drinking with on Friday nights.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.