WASHINGTON - Recalling the shooting of 20 first graders as the worst day of his presidency, President Obama pledged Sunday to put his "full weight" behind a legislative package next year aimed at containing gun violence.
In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Obama voiced skepticism about proposals to put armed guards in schools in the aftermath of the deadly assault Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In his boldest terms yet, he vowed to rally the American people behind an agenda to limit gun violence and said he supports increased background checks and bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"It is not enough for us to say, 'This is too hard so we're not going to try,' " Obama said. "So what I intend to do is I will call all the stakeholders together. I will meet with Republicans. I will meet with Democrats. I will talk to anybody.
"I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can't have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high-capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids. And, yes, it's going to be hard."
Obama's comments come as the Newtown massacre has elevated the issue of gun violence to the forefront of public attention. Six adults also died at the school.
Authorities say the shooter killed his mother at their home, and later himself.
The slayings have prompted renewed calls for stronger gun controls. The National Rifle Association has resisted those efforts vociferously, arguing instead that schools should have armed guards.
"I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools," Obama said. "And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem."
Obama said he intended to press the issue with the public. "Will there be resistance? Absolutely there will be resistance," he said.
"The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away. It certainly won't feel like that to me. This is something that - you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."
Separately, a member of the president's cabinet said Sunday that rural America may be ready to join a national conversation about gun control. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the debate has to start with respect for the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms and recognition that hunting is a part of life for millions of Americans.
But Vilsack said Newtown has changed the way people see the issue. "I really believe that this is a different circumstance and a different situation," Vilsack said on CNN. He said he thinks it's possible for Americans to come together. "It's potentially a unifying conversation," he said.