LONDON—Mitt Romney rejected calls for new gun laws in the aftermath of last week's movie theater shooting in Colorado, insisting new legislation would not have prevented the tragedy.
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, the presumptive Republican nominee pointed to the fact that James E. Holmes, the suspect in last Friday's shooting, was "building bombs"—even though it was illegal.
"A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law," Romney told NBC. "But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening."
Asked if he had a "problem" with individuals being able to purchase large amounts of ammunition via the Internet, Romney said he didn't think it was possible to "prevent people who want to provide harm from being able to purchase things to carry out that harm."
"What I wanna do is find the people who represent a danger to America and find them and keep them from having the capacity to use or buy things that could … hurt other people," Romney said.
The GOP candidate argued that "changing the heart of the American people" may be the only key to cracking down on gun violence. He described himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but acknowledged he had differences with the National Rifle Association—though he didn't name a specific issue where he disagreed with the gun rights group.
"Their agenda is not entirely identical with my own," Romney said. "I don't know if I line up 100 percent with … almost anybody."
Speaking from London, where he kicked off a seven-day overseas tour Wednesday, Romney was asked about his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Tuesday in which he criticized President Barack Obama for his "shabby treatment" of Israel. Romney declined to elaborate on his remark, telling Williams he didn't want to trash Obama while he's traveling overseas.
"I don't want to be in any way critical of the president or to be fashioning foreign policy departure from the president, while I'm on foreign soil," Romney said. "But I can tell you that with regards to any nation that feels its security is at risk that they should have a firm conviction that America is securely behind them. And I hope the people of Israel feel that. I would certainly want to communicate that I as a citizen and a candidate stand with Israel and want to see them have a prosperous and peaceful future."
Romney was asked about a Daily Telegraph report that quoted an unnamed adviser to his campaign suggesting Obama did not fully appreciate the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" shared between the United States and Great Britain. Acknowledging he was "not enthusiastic about adopting comments made by people who are unnamed," Romney disputed the comment.
"We have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain. It goes back to our very beginnings--cultural and historical. But I also believe the president understands that," Romney said. "So I don't agree with whoever that adviser might be."
Romney again rejected calls to release additional tax returns beyond the two years he's pledged to release, telling NBC that Democrats "take what's there, twist it, distort it (and) dishonestly use it in attack ads."
"I just don't want to give them more material than is required," Romney said.
Asked about criticism from Republicans that he hasn't fully explained his personal story to voters, Romney laughed off the suggestion, telling Williams that he's been more than open about his life.
"I'm happy to talk about my heritage. … I'm proud of my heritage," Romney said, noting that his father was born in Mexico and mentioning his membership in the Mormon church. But he argued it was still too early for most voters, suggesting most people won't start paying attention to the presidential race until after Labor Day.
"Most folks won't really get to see me until the debates and will get a better sense of the character that I have," Romney said.
He declined to offer any details about his search for a vice presidential running mate. Williams asked Romney about the suggestion among Republicans that he would pick "an incredibly boring white guy."
"You told me you were not available," Romney joked.
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- Mitt Romney