WASHINGTON -- Pro-gun lawmakers suggested Tuesday the country needs to take a "wholistic" approach to violence, rather than writing new gun laws after the Sandy Hook school massacre, and the sponsor of an assault weapons proposal said it would be hard to pass.

Lawmakers from both parties signaled willingness to discuss new gun control legislation in the aftermath of Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Conn., which left 28 dead -- including 20 children, ages 6 and 7. But congressional supporters of gun rights said they remained reluctant to pledge support for anything beyond a conversation. That reluctance shows the steep challenge for those who believe the massacre creates an opportunity to act.

“This is an uphill climb -- and I recognize that -- every step of the way," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who plans to introduce legislation early next year that would reinstate a ban on assault weapons.

The White House said Tuesday President Barack Obama is “actively supportive” of efforts like Feinstein’s, and would also back legislation to close a loophole that allows weapons to be sold at gun shows without criminal background checks. On the same day, House Democrats expressed support for legislation that would prohibit the manufacturing of high-capacity magazines.

But pro-gun lawmakers said they were less than enthusiastic about taking immediate action.

“I have no problem debating ideas,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “My commitment is to continue to protect what is a constitutional right. This is not a policy position. This is in the Constitution of the United States, which I did not write.”

Rubio said he is open-minded to a possible commission to examine gun violence, “as long as it’s a holistic approach and not simply focused on guns.” He added that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and wasn't spared from massacre.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he also was unwilling to support an assault weapons ban. “I want to see the language before I make that decision,” he told The Huffington Post.

“I think everybody has to be at the table to talk about this ... and I think it’s important to make the right judgment about what we deal with,” Nelson said, echoing Rubio’s call for a wholistic approach. “Mental health needs to be a considerable part of the discussion. Family relationships and the like have to be part of the discussion, so it’s not simply just a discussion about weapons.

“There are very different thoughts from different parts of the country and we want to talk as though it’s monolithic, but it’s not,” Nelson added.

Other senators were similarly reticent about renewing a ban on assault weapons.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) joined the chorus of support for a commission, but offered little else. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said government should support families of the victims, then engage in "a thoughtful discussion.”

Banning assault weapons is not the answer, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told Politico. "We've seen that movie before and it's sad," he said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said such a ban should be considered. But she stressed that the issue was not simply gun control.

“It’s called stronger gun laws to protect innocent people in this country,” McCaskill told HuffPost, adding that restrictions on the size of ammunition clips also is worth considering.

Others proposed revisiting funding for mental health and how a culture of violence in video games and movies might influence young minds.

Despite obstacles to immediate action, Feinstein said she hoped lawmakers are serious when they say it really is different this time. If the lives of children are not enough to spark a legislative response, she said, there is little else that could make a difference to the future of gun control.

"If these children don't make a difference to people, if the wiping out of any future they might have doesn't make a difference to people [over] the rights of a few [to possess] a specific class of weapons -- which fall prey to grievance killers [and] shouldn't be on the streets -- that ought to be a no brainer," Feinstein said.

Mike McAuliff contributed.

"
Loading Slideshow...
  • December 14, 2012 -- Newtown, Conn. -- 27 dead (including gunman)

    The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 27 dead -- including 20 young children. President Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/obama-newtown-school-shooting_n_2301823.html">gave an emotional address</a>, calling for "meaningful action": <blockquote>As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We're going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics.</blockquote>

  • September 27, 2012 -- Minneapolis, Minn. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

    Andrew John Engeldinger, a recently laid off employee of Accent Signage Systems, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/eric-rivers-dies-accent-signage-systems-shooting_n_1960914.html">entered the office building and opened fire</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • August 5, 2012 -- Oak Creek, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

    White supremacist Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh Temple, opening fire on congregants. He later shot and injured a police officer responding to the scene. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/05/obama-wisconsin-shooting-_n_1744692.html">Presidential reaction</a>: <blockquote>Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. <br>My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.</blockquote>

  • July 20, 2012 -- Aurora, Colo. -- 12 dead, 59 injured

    During a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html">opened fire on the suburban Denver movie theater</a>, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Two days later, Obama <a href="http://www.kunc.org/post/transcript-video-president-obamas-speech-after-aurora-hospital-visit">delivered a ten-minute speech</a> from the University of Colorado that made no mention of gun control: <blockquote>God bless all who helped to respond to this tragedy. And I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.</blockquote>

  • May 31, 2012 -- Seattle, Wash. -- 6 dead (including gunman)

    A man opened fire in a cafe, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/seattle-shootings-2012_n_1561944.html">fatally wounding four people</a>, then killed another in a carjacking before killing himself. (No public comments from the president.)

  • April 2, 2012 -- Oakland, Calif. -- 7 dead

    A former student of Oikos University, a Korean college, entered a building on the campus and shot repeatedly at random targets. (No public comments from the president)

  • February 22, 2012 -- Norcross, Ga. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

    A man <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203960804577238850391163984.html">shot and killed two of his sisters and their husbands and then himself</a> in a Korean health spa. (No public comments from the president.)

  • October 12, 2011 -- Seal Beach, Calif. -- 8 dead, 1 injured

    Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, stormed a hair salon where his ex-wife worked and <a href="http://www.ocregister.com/articles/business-321651-medical-beach.html?videos">killed eight people</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • January 8, 2011 -- Tucson, Ariz. -- 6 dead, 14 injured

    Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing six people and injuring others including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/08/gabrielle-giffords-shot-c_n_806211.html">shot in the head at point-blank range</a>. Two months later, Obama addressed gun control issues <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/13/obama-gun-control-arizona-shooting_n_835103.html">in an op-ed for the <em>Arizona Daily Star</em></a>: <blockquote>I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country. However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.</blockquote>

  • August 3, 2010 -- Manchester, Conn. -- 9 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

    A driver for Hartford Distributors <a href="http://articles.courant.com/2010-08-03/news/hc-omar-thornton-workplace-shooting-020100803_1_workplace-shooting-east-hartford-shooting-victims">killed eight people and then himself </a>in this workplace shooting. (No public comments from the president.)

  • November 29, 2009 -- Parkland, Wash. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

    A Washington man walked into a coffee shop and <a href="http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2010382767_webfourdead29m.html">shot four police officers execution-style</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • November 5, 2009 -- Fort Hood, Texas -- 13 dead, 30 injured (including gunman)

    In the deadliest shooting to ever happen on an American military base, an Army Major <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/fort-hood-shooting-fbi-nidal-hasan-political-correctness_n_1685653.html">serving as a psychiatrist went on a shooting spree</a> that killed 13. Obama <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/11/06/obamas-response-fort-hood-shooting-scrutiny/#ixzz2F3yWYFVg">said at a press conference</a>: <blockquote>This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow servicemen and women. We don't know all of the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all of the facts.</blockquote>

  • April 3, 2009 -- Binghamton, N.Y. -- 14 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

    Jiverly Wong, a naturalized immigrant from Vietnam,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/nyregion/05suspect.html"> gunned down students and employees at the American Civic Association</a>, where he had been taking English lessons. President Obama said in a statement: <blockquote>Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, N.Y. today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton. We don't yet know all the facts, but my administration is actively monitoring the situation, and the vice president is in touch with Governor Paterson and local officials to track developments.</blockquote>

  • March 10, 2009 -- Geneva County, Ala. -- 11 dead (including gunman), 6 injured

    A 28-year-old man <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/us/12alabama.html?hp&_r=0">killed his mother then drove ten miles to kill several members of his extended family, neighbors and a bystander</a>. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 74 years old. (No public comments from the president.)

  • March 29, 2009 -- Carthage, N.C. -- 8 dead, 3 injured (including gunman)

    A gunman <a href="http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/4837676/">opened fire on a nursing home</a>, killing seven residents and a nurse. (No public comments from the president.)

  • June 25, 2008 -- Henderson, Ky. -- 6 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    After an argument with his boss at the Atlantis plastics plant, Wesley N. Higdon, 25, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25361852/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/dead-argument-boss-ends-rampage/#.UMuJ53Pjlps">killed five colleagues</a> and then himself. (No public comments from the president.)

  • February 14, 2008 -- DeKalb, Ill. -- 6 dead (including gunman, 21 injured)

    A former Northern Illinois University student, 27-year-old Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, opened fire on the campus, killing five people then himself. George W. Bush <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/15/us-usa-shooting-school-idUSKRA48086720080215">spoke with school president John Peters </a>and told him "that a lot of folks today will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community. Obviously a tragic situation on that campus and I ask our citizens to offer their blessings, blessings of comfort and blessing of strength." Then an Illinois senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/15/us-usa-shooting-school-idUSKRA48086720080215">said in a statement </a>that "we must also offer ... our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets and our schools; from our neighborhoods and our cities."

  • February 7, 2008 -- Kirkwood, Mo. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    A gunman <a href="http://www.ksdk.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=139898">opened fire on a public meeting in the city hall,</a> killing six people before he was shot and killed by police. (No public comments from the president.)

  • December 5, 2007 -- Omaha, Neb. -- 9 dead (including gunman)

    Robert A. Hawkins, 19, went on a shooting spree at the Westroads Mall, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120501868.html">killing eight people</a> and then himself. George W. Bush had been visiting Omaha for a fundraiser but left the city just an hour before the shooting took place. "Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy," the White House <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120501868.html">said in a statement.</a>

  • October 7, 2007 -- Crandon, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    Tyler Peterson, 20, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/10/09/wisconsin.shooting/index.html" target="_hplink">killed six people</a>, including his ex-girlfriend, at a post-homecoming party. (No public comments from the president.)

  • April 16, 2007 -- Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, Va. -- 33 dead (including gunman), 23 injured

    Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the school, shot and killed 32 of his classmates before committing suicide. George W. Bush addressed the nation: <blockquote>I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.</blockquote>