By KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says his administration has received an outpouring of support for stricter gun laws following last week's elementary school massacre in Connecticut, telling respondents to an online petition, "We hear you."
The president said in a video released Friday that he has been encouraged that many gun owners have said there are steps the nation can take to prevent more deadly shootings, "steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids."
"I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts because if there's even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try," Obama said.
Obama was holding a moment of silence on Friday morning at the White House marking one week since the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The National Rifle Association, the country's foremost gun lobby, was holding a news conference on Friday in the aftermath of the shootings.
The president has challenged the NRA to "do some self-reflection" and join a broad effort to reduce gun violence. The organization said Tuesday it would offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
In Friday's video, the president responded to a "We the People" petition on the White House website that allows the public to submit petitions. Nearly 200,000 people have urged Obama to address gun control in one petition and petitions related to gun violence have amassed more than 400,000 signatures.
Obama has begun laying the groundwork for a push to tighten gun laws, address mental health needs and reexamine the glamorization of guns and violence.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading a working group of administration officials and outside advisers to offer recommendations by January. Biden's group is considering reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons, which expired in 2004, closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and restricting high-capacity magazines.
Gun-control measures have faced strong opposition in Congress for the past decade but Obama has suggested he intends to make it a key part of his agenda next year. In the video, he urged the public to become involved in
"If we're going to succeed, it's going to take a sustained effort of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying `enough' on behalf of all our kids," Obama said.
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