WASHINGTON -- With gun control at the forefront of the national debate after last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Colin Powell weighed in on the subject and expressed support for a possible ban on assault weapons.

The former secretary of state called the right to bear arms a "very complex issue" and said he was anxiously awaiting Vice President Joe Biden's formal recommendations to curb gun violence, which are anticipated on Tuesday.

"You have deranged people throughout the country, unfortunately, and they are part of the problem," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "You have to be deranged to pick up a Bushmaster or some weapon and go into a school and kill people. How do we deal with that part of the problem? That has to be looked at with respect to guns themselves."

Powell added that he is a gun owner and reaffirmed his belief in the Second Amendment, but noted that the "responsibility under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to protect our people" should be reason enough to "find some meeting of the minds" on the issue. Powell suggested implementing more comprehensive background checks, which is reportedly a top priority among Biden's pending proposals.

Although he didn't explicitly call for the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban, Powell questioned whether individuals should be able to purchase the high capacity magazines that have been used in most mass shootings.

"Whether or not it's in our overall interest to have these kinds of weapons in the hands of Americans who might not be responsible is a question we have to answer," Powell said. "How much are we really giving up if we said this kind of weapon should not be readily available to anybody who wants to buy one? And so I think we are at a very important point in our national dialogue on this."

"The American people are concerned about the kinds of things that are happening in our society," he continued. "Surely, we can't get the whole ball of wax, [but] I hope that there will be a way to find something in this continuum of things we can do [so] that we are able to do to demonstrate to the American people that this problem is being taken seriously."

Earlier in the day, National Rifle Association President David Keene signaled that efforts to ban assault weapons or limit high capacity magazines would be a non-starter with his organization and predicted they would not pass Congress.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a similar point on CBS's "Face the Nation," pointing instead to the need to address mental health. He appeared alongside Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and the senators announced that together they plan to introduce a bill that would create a commission on mass violence.

"You bring experts from all different fields. You bring people such as myself that are NRA members that have been sportsmen all of our lives, and look for a commonsense approach to how we change the culture of violence in America," Manchin said. "And that's what needs to be done."

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  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

    "I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)

    "If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)

    Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."

  • Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)

    State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.

  • Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)

    Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

    At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.

  • Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)

    Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.

  • Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)

    In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>

  • Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett

    "And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."