CHICAGO • US President Barack Obama said a "distressing" lack of progress on gun control legislation had been the greatest source of frustration during his time in office.
His comments on Thursday came just hours before a gunman opened fire in a movie theatre in the state of Louisiana, shooting dead two people before killing himself.
More than 100 people were in the cinema when the gunman began shooting randomly with a handgun about 30 minutes into a showing of Trainwreck at the Grand 16 cinema in Lafayette, Louisiana, police said. Nine people were injured, some critically. "We don't believe there's anybody else involved," Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael Edmonson told reporters.
In an interview with the BBC before the shooting, Mr Obama said a "distressing" lack of progress on gun control legislation had been the greatest source of frustration during his time in office.
"If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it is less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it is in the tens of thousands," he said. "And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing. But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months (of his presidency)."
If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it is less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it is in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing.
US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Under the US Constitution, every American is entitled "to keep and bear arms" - a tenet jealously guarded by millions of law-abiding gun owners as a symbol of liberty and a foil against tyrannical government.
The latest mass US shooting comes as a jury deliberates over the death penalty for the gunman in a 2012 cinema massacre in Colorado that left 12 dead and 70 injured.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal rushed to Lafayette late on Thursday, where he held a press conference not far from the shooting scene. "Whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence, it makes us both furious and sad at the same time," he told reporters.
Mr Jindal met some of the victims at a local hospital and praised their "selfless heroism". One teacher was badly wounded after throwing herself in front of a friend to shield her from the bullets. The friend was shot in the leg, but managed to "have the presence of mind" to pull a fire alarm in an effort to warn others of the danger, he said.
But Mr Jindal, one of a crowded field of contenders vying for the Republican presidential nomination, said it was not the right time to discuss gun control and that the focus should be on the victims.
The shooting comes almost three years after James Holmes, 27, opened fire at a screening in Aurora, Colorado, of The Dark Knight Rises.
It also comes a week after Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on two military centres in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and killed four US Marines and a Navy sailor before dying in a shoot-out.
Police said they have identified Thursday's shooter as a 58-year-old white male, but did not release his name. They offered no immediate motive and did not disclose any clues they might have found.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS