Days after a mass shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo., revived a gun control debate that was nowhere near the top of the talking points on the presidential candidates' lists, United States President Barack Obama promised to work with both parties to arrive at a consensus for lowering violence.
Obama made it clear at a National Urban League Convention on Wednesday in New Orleans that he isn't intent on stripping Americans of their Second Amendment rights. Instead, he wants to ensure that assault rifles are kept on the battlefields and not on the nation's streets.
Obama has stayed clear of the gun law discussion for a while but spoke out about the issue nearly a week after James Holmes, armed with an assault rifle and handguns, walked into a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" and fired into the crowded theater. Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded. Obama visited the families of the victims on Sunday.
Holmes is in police custody and will be arraigned next week. Police said he was able to legally buy the weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition and war gear on the Internet.
Obama told the gathering that like most Americans, he believes the Second Amendment guarantees people the right to bear arms.
"And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -- that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage," Obama said. "But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals, that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."
The President also told the crowd that it is his belief that the majority of gun owners would agree that everything possible should be done to prevent guns from ending up in the hannds of criminals and fugitives.
"[A majority of gun owners would want us to] check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily," Obama added. "These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense. So I'm going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction."
That Obama has spoken so boldly on the issue is a far cry from his silence when the debate was heated over the weekend. Many of his critics wanted to know what Obama's stance was on the issue.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said both Obama and Romney should say what they intend to do to curb these mass shootings, that have become a pattern over the years.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised that he would reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. However, the administration hasn't moved to renew the ban. Obama's stance on assault weapons hasn't drifted far from what was presented while on the campaign trail four years ago: that these weapons don't belong on the streets.
But while Obama stalled, Romney has told the media in the past that that he doesn't believe in new laws for restricting gun ownership and gun use.
"I believe we have in place all the laws we need," Romney has said during a Fox News-hosted GOP primary debate in January. "We should enforce those laws."
On Wednesday, an evasive Romney told NBC's Brian Williams that the suspect in the Colorado shooting shouldn't have had any kind of "weapons and bombs and other devices, and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already."
But if there is one thing both presidential candidates agree on and that is changing the law won't erase crime.
For Romney, changing the hearts of Americans "may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."
And for Obama, "When a child opens fire on another child, there's a hole in that child's heart that government alone can't fill. It's up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don't have that void inside them."