US & Canada

Aurora shootings: Obama calls for gun 'common sense'

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Media captionPresident Obama: "AK47s belong on the battlefield not on the streets"

US President Barack Obama has said he wants common-sense measures to control guns, following last week's cinema shooting that killed 12 people.

Mr Obama pledged to work with members of both political parties and civic organisations to reach a consensus on the matter, but gave no details.

Mitt Romney, his Republican rival for the presidency, said changing US gun laws would not prevent such tragedies.

James Holmes, 24, is being held over the shooting at the cinema in Aurora.

According to US media reports, Mr Holmes sent a notebook describing a massacre to a psychiatrist at his university.

Election focus?

Debate around gun control has featured very little during the US presidential campaign which has mainly focused on the economy, correspondents say.

In a speech to the National Urban League, an African-American group in New Orleans, Mr Obama said he believed even most gun owners would agree "that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals.

"I believe the majority of gun owners would agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons. And we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller.

"A mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."

Mr Obama referred to a pattern of calling for tougher gun restrictions in the wake of violent crimes, but not following through.

"Too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying, and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere."

The White House made clear on Thursday that Mr Obama would not seek to introduce new legislation on gun control, ahead of presidential elections in November.

White House Press Secretary Jay carney confirmed the president supported a ban on assault weapons, but said the current "stalemate" in Congress would prevent any new laws.

"He believes that we can enhance the enforcement of existing laws by making it more difficult for those who should not have weapons under existing laws, [and] make it more difficult for them to obtain weapons," Mr Carney said.

In a TV interview in London, where he is attending the Olympics at the beginning of a foreign trip, Mr Romney said he did not believe that America needed new gun laws.

"A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening," he said.

Officials have said the guns and ammunition used in the Colorado shootings were bought legally.

A campaign spokesman said Mr Romney was referring to explosive devices found in he cinema massacre suspect's apartment.