White House plays down prospect of new gun laws

The White House signaled Thursday that President Barack Obama would not be seeking new gun control laws in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. But press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would try to find ways to work around the "stalemate" in Congress to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.

During a brief photo-op with his Cabinet, Obama himself sidestepped a reporter's question about how he would proceed without seeking new legislation.

"I'm sure we'll have more opportunity to talk about this," the president said.

Obama had called late Wednesday for tighter background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He called for "common sense" and repeated his support for the lapsed Assault Weapons Ban.

But he also acknowledged the difficult politics of the issue — especially in an election year — and asserted that he was a believer in individual gun rights.

Carney returned to the political problem on Thursday. "I think there is an issue about the stalemate in Congress," the spokesman said at his daily briefing. "And there are things that we can do short of legislation and short of gun laws, as the President said, that can reduce violence in our society and, as he mentioned last night, in our urban centers."

"I know he will continue to press the Department of Justice to try to enhance the enforcement of existing laws, try to further develop our background check system so that it prevents criminals and those who should not have weapons from getting them under existing law," Carney said. "And he'll continue to make sure that his administration is partnering with local law enforcement officials and government officials."

Asked about reporting that suggests that the Colorado shooter violated no laws, and how even tighter background checks would prevent a similar tragedy in the future, Carney replied: "I don't think the President ever suggested that the background check can stop every crime from occurring in America, even one as heinous as this."

"But we do need to take a broader look at what we can do to reduce violence in America," he said. "And it requires a multi-faceted approach that looks at this problem from a variety of angles, and that's not just legislative and it's not just about gun laws."