The National Rifle Association is breaking its silence four days after a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 26 were killed, including 20 children.
The nation's largest gun rights organization made its first public statements Tuesday after a self-imposed media blackout that left many wondering how it would respond to the killings. In its statement, the group said its members were, quoting, "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders."
The group also said it wanted to give families time to mourn before making its first public statements. The organization pledged "to help to make sure this never happens again" and has scheduled a news conference for Friday.
The National Rifle Association released the following statement Tuesday:
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters - and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.
Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.
The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
Meanwhile, Gov. Martin O'Malley says his administration will introduce bills aimed at preventing catastrophic mass shootings like the one that happened last week at an elementary school in Connecticut.
O'Malley told reporters Tuesday that the details of the legislation have yet to be worked out, but that he believes everyone has been changed by Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother and then shot 26 children and school staff members before killing himself.
O'Malley says the shooting prompts questions about laws relating to assault weapons, mental health and school safety.
"It's just hard to conclude that these guns should be in the hands of anyone who isn't a soldier on a battlefield or a law enforcement officer sent into a tactical situation," says O'Malley.
O'Malley says no bill has yet been drafted, but says an administration gun control package will join others already being proposed by several state senators for next month's legislative session. There will be an effort to ban semiautomatic high capacity assault weapons, to limit magazine size for guns, and to give law enforcement better access to mental health records to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
"We need to find a way to try to rescue some good for the future out of the irreplaceable loss that those moms and dads have suffered in Connecticut," says O'Malley.
He says he believes the Newtown killings have created a political will to act.
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Frosh said he and other lawmakers plan to announce this week a package of gun control legislation.
Citizens speak up about gun control
"Something like that is just too dangerous and it's just not necessary to protect yourself," says Patrick McAllister.
"I myself own a handgun, but I think anything beyond that is a little much," says Cher Cox. "It seems it always gets in the wrong hands."
But assault rifles hold plenty of appeal for gun enthusiasts.
"It's very unique. It's fun to shoot," says Mark Warner with the Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly. He isn't surprised sales are up ten times in just the past few days.
Since Friday's massacre, sales of assault weapons and clips have skyrocketed across America with many gun owners fearing Congress will re-enact the assault weapons ban.
But Warner argues laws only impact those who actually follow them.
"Hard gun laws won't deter those who want to cause damage to cause it," says Warner.
Dick's Sporting Goods has indefinitely suspended the sale of some semiautomatic weapons and stopped all gun sales near Newtown. Wal-Mart, however, is making no changes.
"I can't imagine anyone needing an assault rifle for any reason," says Sherry Brennan of Centreville. She thinks after Newtown, the government has to take action with more regulations and fewer guns.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.