Obama Ready for 'Meaningful Action' on Gun Control

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In his few public statements on guns, Obama has sought to balance support for Second Amendment rights while emphasizing enforcement of existing laws and a national background check system rather than new controls.

"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation," Obama told the National Urban League in July.

"But I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should 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," he said.

He made no mention of new legislation or initiatives to boost enforcement of existing laws, saying only that communities and government officials needed to "convene conversations" and build consensus.

"Steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress. This has been true for some time -- particularly when it touches on the issues of guns," he said.

President Obama has been widely praised for his empathetic response in the immediate aftermath of the shootings that have occurred on his watch, assuming the role of "consoler-in-chief," as have his predecessors.

But gun control advocates have been frustrated with his continued reluctance to publicly advocate for any legislative measures, including a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines, to help prevent future tragedies.

"How many more Columbines and Newtowns must we live through?" said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a leading gun control advocate in Congress. "I am challenging President Obama, the Congress, and the American public to act on our outrage and, finally, do something about this."

The Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting in July 2012 was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history with 71 people hit by bullets; 12 were killed. The Newtown, Conn., shooting today is the second deadliest in U.S. history, with more than 28 dead.

A shooting at Virginia Tech in April 2007 was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history with 33 shot and killed, including the shooter.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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