US President urges tougher gun controls on Sandy Hook school massacre anniversary

Activists hold a vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia on Monday.
Activists hold a vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama vowed not to give up on vexed efforts to tighten US gun laws Monday, the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which killed 26 people, including 20 primary school children.

In a Facebook post, Obama took the Republican-controlled Congress to task for failing to pass reforms after the shooting that would have introduced tougher background checks for gun buyers.

Recalling his meeting with grieving parents, Obama asked, "How do we tell them that their Congress hasn't done anything to prevent what happened to them from happening to other families?"

Twenty children and six educators were killed when Adam Lanza went on a deadly rampage at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Gun supporters say Obama's measures would not have prevented the attack and would have punished law-abiding owners.

Obama assailed the "gun lobby and its allies" in Congress for painting reforms - which he called "pretty commonsense stuff" - as an assault on constitutionally mandated freedoms.

"Since then, tens of thousands of our fellow Americans have been mowed down by gun violence. Tens of thousands. More kids have lost siblings. More parents have lost children. More husbands and wives have had to bury the love of their life."

Obama hit out at Congress's ban on a federal agency tracking gun violence, two weeks after an apparently radicalised Muslim couple shot dead 14 people in California.

"Even after San Bernardino they've refused to make it harder for terrorist suspects to buy semi-automatic weapons," he said.

"I refuse to give up on this," Obama added, noting he had tasked his staff with looking again at possible executive orders that bypass Congress.

"We may not have a Congress that's willing to work with us on this right now. So the rest of us will have to do what we can."

Obama called on "responsible gun owners" to join in pressing for change. "The gun lobby is loud and organised in its defence of effortlessly available guns for anyone. The rest of us are going to have to be just as passionate and organised in our defence of our kids."