President Barack Obama offered up his strongest comments on gun control since the "Dark Knight" movie theater massacre.
Wrapping up a three-day campaign tour with a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans Wednesday night, Obama painted a sweeping portrait of gun violence across the country and vowed to fight it.
He stressed the need for community outreach and vigorous background checks on would-be gun buyers, citing the July 20 movie theater massacre that left 12 dead and 58 wounded in Aurora, Colo., as well as urban violence elsewhere.
"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual the right to bear arms," he said. "But I think a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong... on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I think the majority of gun owners agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons."
The president vowed to work for a bipartisan consensus around violence reduction but added that "we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there's a hole in that child's heart that government alone can't fill."
His comment echoed a remark Mitt Romney made earlier in the day when NBC News' Brian Williams asked him if he could understand the growing calls for tighter gun laws in the wake of the massacre.
"We can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't," he said. "Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."
Romney had also said that he did not believe that the country needed new gun laws, while Obama left open the possibility for more reforms.
"What I said in the wake of Tucson was we were going to stay on this persistently," Obama said Wednesday, before touting some of the reforms, like stricter background checks, that have taken effect since the 2011 Arizona mass shooting. "But even though we've taken these actions, they're not enough. Other steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress."
He stressed that he would work not only within government but also with communities and religious and civic organizations to address gun violence.
Obama also announced the launch of a new executive order aimed at improving educational achievement for African-American students. He said the White House initiative would give children "greater access to a complete and competitive education."
He drew some laughter after warning the crowd of the brainy international competition young Americans face.
"You're competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore. You know... They're not playing video games. They're not watching 'Real Housewives,'" he said, pausing to smirk and confess that those comments were not in his prepared remarks.
He wrapped up by asking the friendly crowd for continued support as the election cycle picks up speed.
"I promise," he said, "we will finish what we started."