Yet a day later, his office said that Obama wouldnt push for stricter gun laws, only better enforcement of existing laws.
Next to abortion, gun control is perhaps Americas most polarizing issue. Few Democrats are willing to run afoul of powerful gun rights lobbies such as the National Rifle Association.
Tackling the issue has always required a delicate balance between respecting the Second Amendment and curbing gun violence by limiting access.
Now with a tight presidential race and a fragile hold by Democrats on the Senate, few expect Democrats in close contests to say much about the issue.
Brad Thompson, a DNC platform committee member from Raleigh, is new to the platform process, but hopes the party speaks out on the easy accessibility of assault weapons and ammunition.
It represents a problem, Thompson said. The access needs to be managed.
On Monday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, both Democrats and longtime gun control advocates, introduced legislation they say would prevent people from buying unlimited amounts of ammunition on the Internet.
But congressional leaders said there wouldnt be enough time in the current session to get into a gun control debate.
Its political dynamite, said UNC Charlotte political scientist Eric Heberlig. When the president talked about gun control to the Urban League, he talked about restricting assault weapons, an element of gun control that is more popular.
I dont believe he would have talked about it at all had Aurora not occurred.
The 1994 effect
The 1994 midterm elections taught Democrats how risky promoting gun control can be.
During President Bill Clintons first term, the Democrat-controlled Senate and House passed the Brady Bill instituting background checks for firearm buyers. The next year in 1993 they passed the assault weapons ban.
Clinton signed the law in September. Two months later, Democrats lost control of both chambers.
Many Democrats blamed the gun control votes for the dramatic losses.
Since then, the Democrats seem to have given up on the debate, Heberlig said.
The silence youve heard from President Obama and other leading Democrats is the continuation of the political understanding in the Democratic Party that it doesnt do them any good to talk about gun control, Heberlig said.
They learned in 1994 theres no point in risking it. ... Theyve decided theres no point in losing more seats in Congress or taking a chance in the presidential race.
Still, the 1996 Democratic platform remained tough on gun control. It forcefully stated that Clinton in a second term would veto any attempt to repeal the Brady Bill and assault weapons ban.
Twelve years later at the 2008 Democrat convention, Democrats had retreated from tough language, despite outrage over the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people.
The partys platform said the right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition. But that right was subject to reasonable regulation.
As they had before, Democrats called for closing gun show loopholes and renewing the assault weapon ban.
Now, as Democrats head to their convention in Charlotte, they face more outrage from the Aurora shootings and another balancing act.