The school shooting in Connecticut is likely to reignite the debate surrounding the purchase of firearms in the United States.
In July, US President Barack Obama called for tougher background checks on Americans trying to buy a gun in the wake of the “Batman” shootings in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado. Alleged killer James Holmes was a student at the University of Colorado Denver. Mr Obama also called for restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. Those steps “shouldn’t be controversial, they should be common sense”, he said.
In 1990, polls showed that a substantial majority of Americans – nearly 80 per cent – supported stricter limits on guns. Now Americans appear evenly divided between those who want tougher restrictions and those who want to stick with current laws.
Gun rights groups are a powerful lobby in the United States, where easy access to guns is a way of life in many of the more conservative and rural areas. The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the US constitution.
In a speech to the National Urban League civil rights group, Mr Obama said he wanted a national consensus in the effort to stem gun violence.
Despite the Second Amendment’s protection of gun rights, Mr Obama said: “I believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that an AK-47 belongs 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 powerful National Rifle Association, which has huge sway in Congress, has successfully made the issue nearly off limits among most legislators.