RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Sen. Mark R. Warner, among the few Senate Democrats to hold favor with the National Rifle Association, said Monday that the Connecticut elementary school massacre has reversed his stand on assault weapons.
Warner endorsed President Barack Obama's support for restricting rapid-fire rifles like those a gunman used in the massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"The status quo is not acceptable anymore," the centrist former Virginia governor said in interviews Monday at the state Capitol, recalling the horror his three daughters expressed Friday at the second-worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Its death toll is surpassed only by 2007 slayings of 32 people at Virginia Tech.
"There needs to be appropriate restrictions on these tools of mass-killing," Warner said, calling for tighter screening of gun buyers and stricter access to powerful, combat-style firearms capable of dispensing numerous shots in a short time.
He said he had not considered details of such legislation, but said he hopes to find moderate Republicans to help him advance pragmatic reforms that don't punish those who own firearms for hunting and self-defense.
"I hope this won't just be a flash point and then it will just recede into the quagmire in Washington," he said.
Warner presided over one of the most chilling murder sprees in history as governor 10 years ago when snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 at the time, used a combat-style rifle to lie in ambush and kill 10 people, terrorizing the Washington area and surrounding region.
In his victorious 2001 gubernatorial campaign, Warner spoke out for gun rights and found support from sportsmen in rural areas.
That kept the National Rifle Association on the sidelines and allowed Warner to win votes normally denied Democrats. As governor, he never vetoed pro-gun legislation.
Asked if he was concerned about clashing with the NRA as he looks toward a re-election bid in 2014, Warner said, "I hope the NRA will be a part of this conversation."
There was no immediate comment from officials at the organization's Fairfax, Va., headquarters.
Two Baltimore County officials have also called for strengthened gun laws in the wake of the shooting.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson made the call at a news conference Monday. They urged lawmakers to stop the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds.
Johnson is chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence. He called gun violence "a public health epidemic." Kamenetz read from a letter he wrote to elected officials, asking for immediate action on gun safety measures.
Baltimore County has seen gun violence in its schools. A 17-year-old student was critically hurt when he was shot in the school cafeteria on the first day of classes, allegedly by a fellow student.
White House response
The White House says curbing gun violence is a complex problem that will require a "comprehensive solution" including addressing gun control measures.
Still, spokesman Jay Carney says gun control is not the only solution to stopping shootings like the horrific attack at a Connecticut elementary school Friday.
He says no single piece of legislation or single action will fully address the problem. Obama has said he is going to use the "power" of his office to tackle gun violence.
Carney says the president will engage the American people and lawmakers on this issue in the coming weeks, as well as meet with law enforcement officials and mental health professionals.
Carney did not offer any specific policy proposals or timeline for tackling gun violence.
Bloomberg wants stricter gun laws
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and dozens of shooting survivors and victims' relatives are calling on Congress and Obama to tighten gun laws and enforcement.
The mayor was appearing at City Hall Monday with 34 people whose own lives or the lives of their relatives have been affected by gun violence around the country.
They're sending videos to lawmakers telling their stories. Bloomberg has long been an advocate for tougher national gun regulations. He has found himself at the forefront of a re-energized push for gun control since Friday's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
He says the carnage "demands immediate national action."
One sign that Congress may be willing to address at least the assault weapon issue comes from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a gun rights advocate who is conceding that this may be the time for a change.
“I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Manchin says.