Obama urges Congress to act after latest shooting

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama called on Congress Tuesday to act on his stalled gun reform measures, bemoaning its failure to make meaningful reforms despite a "ritual" of shooting massacres.

A day after a gunman shot dead 12 people at a naval base a few miles from the White House, Obama said the "overwhelming majority" of Americans agreed with him on the need for common-sense firearms reform.

"I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings," Obama said in an interview with the Telemundo Spanish-language television network.

"Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families ... and yet we're not willing to take some basic actions."

Obama introduced a sheaf of measures including a plan for enhanced background checks on gun buyers and a ban on assault style rifles as America reeled after 20 children and six adults were killed in a school rampage in Newtown, Connecticut in December last year.

Yet the package foundered in Congress, partly due to a fierce lobbying campaign by pro-gun groups and opposition from some of his fellow Democrats from conservative states, leaving Obama to introduce a smaller set of measures using his executive powers.

"Ultimately, this is something that Congress is going to have to act on," he said in the interview.

"I've taken steps that are within my control. The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move," he said.

The president said it appeared that the shooter in Monday's massacre, Aaron Alexis, 34, had a history of mental health problems, and touted his plan for expanded background checks for gun purchases.

Obama also defended his decision to go ahead with a major economic speech on Monday as incomplete reports of the massacre were coming in, noting that he referenced the killings and the plight of the victims at the top of his remarks. "Keep in mind that I spoke directly to the shooting while we were still gathering information," he said.

"And I think that everybody understands that the minute something like this happens, I'm in touch with the FBI, I'm in touch with my national security team, we're making sure that all the assets are out there."

But, Obama added: "I think it's very important for us to understand the urgency that we need to see out of Congress to go ahead and keep this recovery going, put people back to work," Obama said.

Some Republicans and media outlets have criticised Obama for going ahead with a sharply political speech as the shooting was taking place.