WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House hinted on Tuesday that President Barack Obama may address the politically sensitive issue of gun control more broadly in the aftermath of the recent shootings in Colorado.
Gun control is a tricky issue in the United States, especially during presidential campaigns, and the Democratic president has been cautious in expressing any support for gun-law changes that could alienate voters in key battleground states he needs to win in the November 6 election.
Obama traveled to Colorado on Sunday to comfort family members and victims of the shooting at an Aurora movie theater in which 12 people died and dozens were injured. In remarks after his visit the president hinted at the prospect of a new discussion about gun control measures.
“I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country,” he said.
On Tuesday White House spokesman Jay Carney also said Obama could talk about the issue more broadly but he declined to offer details or a time frame.
“It’s certainly possible the president could address ... these issues in the future but I don’t have any scheduling updates for you,” Carney told reporters on Air Force One.
Congress has not approved any major new gun laws since 1994, and a ban on certain semiautomatic rifles expired in 2004. Carney reiterated Obama’s support for an assault weapons ban.
In the U.S. Congress, there appeared to be little interest among Senate leaders for initiating a debate on gun control legislation.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether Republicans would go along with any changes to gun laws, responded:
”I haven’t heard any discussions about the issue of whether or not having different gun control laws would keep people who clearly are unbalanced from committing acts,“ McConnell said. ”I think the widespread view is that somebody who is that unbalanced will find some way to do harm. And we have many areas of the country that have very strict gun control laws and it seems not to have had any impact on the incidences that are in question.
“So I don’t sense any movement among either Democrats or Republicans in the direction of thinking that stricter gun control laws would likely have prevented this horrible occurrence in Colorado.”
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, asked about the need for new gun laws, said he was about to attend a service commemorating the shooting deaths of two Capitol Police officers 14 years ago this month.
Noting that the Colorado shooting had just occurred, he said, “You have to be very, very patient. And by that I don’t mean, forever patient. But I think we have to wait and see how this plays out ... I think we should just wait for a reasonable period of time before people are off making statements about what they should do and what they shouldn’t do.”
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Rick Cowan; Editing by Fred Barbash and Bill Trott