President Barack Obama Tuesday called for national "soul searching" over gun violence, warning that mass shootings were "off the charts" in a way no other advanced country would tolerate.
Obama vented frustration and disbelief that there was no momentum for gun reform in the wake of a new spate of mass shootings, in impassioned remarks likely to touch off a new fight with the powerful firearms lobby.
"We are the only developed country on earth where this happens, and it happens now once a week," Obama said at the White House, hours after a gunman shot and killed a student at an Oregon High School in the latest shooting incident.
"There is no place else like this!" he said, adding that America should be ashamed it could not enact even the mildest gun reforms.
Obama said the "biggest frustration" of his presidency so far was that Washington had not even taken "basic steps" to keep guns out of the hands of people that can do "unbelievable damage."
Obama tried and failed to introduce some moderate restrictions on the purchases of certain types of guns after the Newtown, Conn., massacre in which 20 children were killed along with six adults in December 2012.
"Our levels of gun violence are off the charts, there is no advanced developed country on earth that would put up with this," Obama said.
The president said he respected gun rights enshrined in the Constitution, but said the idea that it was impossible to introduce background checks for gun buyers made no sense.
"The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me," Obama said.
The president said he had found it "stunning" that new guns laws could not pass after the horror of the Newtown massacre which traumatized the country.
He said that the only way that the current status quo would change would be if public opinion influenced lawmakers, who he said were "terrified" of the National Rifle Association.
He also took aim at the argument often advanced by gun rights groups, that the real root of mass shootings was the lack of widespread mental health treatment.
"The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people," Obama said.
"It's not the only country that has psychosis and yet we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else."
"What's the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses."
© AFP 2014