By Justin Sink - 12/17/12 06:37 PM EST
There is no simple solution or legislative fix to Friday’s massacre of 20 small children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school, the White House said Monday.
Press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that gun violence in America was “a complex problem that will require a complex solution” and declined to outline specific measures President Obama could take to prevent gun violence.
Carney acknowledged that Obama had “taken positions on common sense measures” like an assault weapons ban in the past, but insisted he did not “have a specific timeline” or set of policy proposals that the White House was immediately advocating.
Carney also acknowledged that any effort to institute new gun restrictions could earn fierce opposition from the gun lobby.
“We all recognize this is a complex problem, and there are obstacles to taking action coming from a variety of places,” Carney said.
Carney was asked whether delaying a legislative proposal risked failing to harness the outrage in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The press secretary said it was hard to "imagine in a few weeks or a few months that pain would not still be incredibly intense and present."
"What happened was both consistent, unfortunately, with a series of events that has been happening in the United States but also exceptional in its horrendousness," Carney said.
Obama attended a vigil in Newton, Conn., on Sunday night for the victims of the shooting, vowing to use “whatever power this office holds” toward efforts to prevent “more tragedies like this.”
“Because what choice do we have?" 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?”
Gun control activists have urged the president to throw his support behind new restrictions in the aftermath of the tragedy. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Monday she would introduce legislation to ban assault weapons at the opening of the next Congress.
“It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill. We’ve been working on it now for a year,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet The Press."
A gun control petition posted to the White House's website has drawn nearly 150,000 signatures in three days, making it the most popular cause since the “We the People” program was launched last year.
But the political path for new gun regulations is uncertain. Republicans have been mum on whether they would support new gun control legislation, although they are seen as unlikely to do so.
And even Democratic support could be tough to corral — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has consistently voted against assault weapons bans during his career in the upper chamber.
Still, other pro-gun Democratic senators have shown signs they would support limited new gun regulation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday that the tragedy had “changed the dialogue” on gun control, going on to call for “action” to prevent future mass shootings. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who has an “A” grade from the NRA, told NBC News on Monday he was ready to “talk” about an assault weapons ban after the “game changer” in Newton.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found that 54 percent of Americans favored stricter gun controls — a five year high — with nearly six in 10 supporting bans on high-capacity ammunition clips.
A majority of those surveyed also see the shooting in Connecticut as an indicator of “broader problems in American society,” and not “the isolated act of a troubled individual.” Fifty-two percent favor banning semi-automatic handguns.
Nevertheless, there remains a strong opposition to an outright handgun ban. Of those surveyed, 56 percent said they “strongly” opposed such legislation.