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Justice Department looking at tighter gun access for criminals, others

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • White House: The goal is to prevent criminals, "unbalanced" people from buying guns
  • President Obama wrote an op-ed commentary on the issue published Sunday
  • The move comes after the Tucson shootings in January

Washington (CNN) -- Talks are starting this week on possible steps to tighten access to guns for people with criminal records or mental health issues, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

Carney responded to questions from reporters following publication Sunday of an op-ed commentary by President Barack Obama in The Arizona Daily Star that looked at the gun control debate following the January 8 shootings in Tucson. Six people were killed 13 were wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Jared Lee Loughner, who has been charged in the shootings, previously was rejected for military service and had raised concern at the local college where he took classes due to erratic behavior.

"We can honor our Second Amendment rights while still ensuring that someone with a criminal record shouldn't be able to check out at a gun seller, that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to buy a gun so easily," Carney said, adding: "There is room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety, respect the Second Amendment, and that we should be able to find some common ground on some of those measures."

Carney said the Department of Justice was launching talks this week with "stakeholders on all sides of the issue." While declining to provide specifics, Carney said legislation was a possible outcome.

In the an op-ed commentary, Obama acknowledged the role of guns in American society, while warning of their dangers.

"Every single day, America is robbed of more futures. It has awful consequences for our society," Obama wrote, adding that "we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that's handed from generation to generation."

The president outlined three "sound and effective" steps to keep "those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place," including enforcing laws already on the books, rewarding states that provide the best data and therefore do the most to protect their citizens, and making the system for background checks "faster and nimbler."

Following the Tucson shootings, some members of Congress voiced support for tougher gun regulations. However, the strong pro-gun lobby and deep-rooted resistance to gun control, particularly in Southern states, meant the matter failed to gain traction.

In Sunday's piece, Obama said he understands discussions about gun control "can reinforce stark divides."

"However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place," Obama wrote. "We owe the victims of the tragedy in Tucson and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best efforts -- to seek consensus, to prevent future bloodshed, to forge a nation worthy of our children's futures."

CNN's Ed Henry, Gabriella Schwarz and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.