Washington: As a heartbroken President Barack Obama renewed a call for gun control in the wake of the killing of two journalists on live TV, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump instead favoured addressing mental health issues.
"It breaks my heart every time when you read about or hear about these kind of incidents," the president told an ABC affiliate after the shooting of a television reporter and a cameraman in Virginia Wednesday.
"What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism," Obama said.
Barack Obama. File pic/ AFP
"We're willing to spend trillions of dollars to prevent terrorist activities, but we haven't been willing, so far at least, to impose some common sense gun safety measures that could save some lives."
Discussing how Republican controlled Congress is "bottlenecked" on gun control, Obama praised the cities and state legislatures who have taken action and said: "My hope is that public pressure continues to grow."
But Trump Thursday opposed tightening gun laws saying: "This isn't a gun problem, this is a mental problem."
"It's not a question of the laws, it's really the people," Trump told CNN.
Calling the gunman a "very sick man," he said mental illness is "a massive problem" in the US.
Donald Trump. File pic/ AFP
He suggested more resources should be devoted to addressing mental health -- hoping to prevent shootings like the one in Virginia, which he called "really, very sad".
Gun control advocates once again pressed for reforms with Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton backing reaffirmed Obama's plea for "common sense" gun legislation.
"We are smart enough -- compassionate enough -- to figure out how to balance legitimate Second Amendment rights with preventive measures," she tweeted Thursday.
But Trump insisted Thursday that changes in the US gun laws were not the solution needed, saying he is "a very strong Second Amendment person".
A powerful gun lobby has foiled Obama's efforts to tighten gun laws, leading him to describe it as the greatest source of frustration during his time in office.
Commenting on Wednesday's tragedy, the New York Times hit the nail on the head saying: "There are too many guns, and too little national will to do anything about them."
In a similar vein, the Washington Post also asked: "Will America finally do something to stop our gun-fuelled carnage?"