President backs renewed ban on 
assault weapons

President Barack Obama is “actively supportive” of reinstating an assault weapons ban, the White House said, as the United States wrestled with the treacherous issue of gun control in the aftermath of the Connecticut primary school massacre.

Meanwhile, with the debate sharpening, the country’s most powerful gun rights group broke its silence over the shooting and promised “to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again”.

In Newton, where the shooting occurred, funerals were held for two more of the little victims, a six-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, the latest in a long, almost unbearable procession of grief.

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Twenty-six people were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in US history. The gunman, Adam Lanza, who committed suicide, also killed his mother in her home.

The massacre has rattled the usual national dialogue on guns in America, where public opinion had shifted against tougher arms control in recent years and the gun lobby is a powerful political force.

Congressional gun rights supporters showed an increased willingness yesterday to consider new legislation – provided it also addressed mental health issues and the impact of violent video games.

Republicans in the House of Representatives discussed the gun issue at their regular closed-door meeting and some were willing to consider gun control as part of a solution.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama was “actively supportive” of reinstating an assault weapons ban and would also support laws to close the gun show “loophole”, which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.

Mr Obama has long supported reintroducing the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, but was quiet on the issue during his first term.

The president was not expected to take any formal action on guns before the end of the year, given the all-consuming efforts to resolve tax and deficit-reduction talks and nominate new Cabinet secretaries.

The most powerful supporter of gun owners, the National Rifle Association, broke its silence yesterday, four days after the school shooting. After a self-imposed media blackout that left many wondering how it would respond to the killings, it said in a statement that its members were “shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders”.

“The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again,” the organisation said.

As shares in publicly-traded gun manufacturers were dropping for a third straight day yesterday, the largest firearms maker in the United States said it was being put up for sale by its owner, which called last week’s school shooting a “watershed event” in the American debate over gun control.

Freedom Group International makes Bushmaster rifles, the weapons thought to have been used in Friday’s killings. The New York-based private equity group Cerberus Capital Management – which invests money on behalf of state employees like teachers, among other clients – said it would sell its controlling stake in the company.