Charleston shooting prompts calls for tougher gun laws

President Obama said Friday it's not enough to simply grieve after tragedies like the Charleston church shooting. He said the U.S. needs to have a conversation about gun safety and in his words, "Fix this."

South Carolina law allows concealed firearms inside churches if the pastor approves. Pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney opposed that law.

Where the 2016 candidates stand on gun control
Where the 2016 candidates stand on gun control

Just a day after Pinckney and eight others were shot and killed, the lobbying group Gun Owners of America noted "potential victims were disarmed by law." Erich Pratt speaks for the group.

"The problem is, is that people aren't allowed to take their firearms into certain places and that's where these mass shootings are occurring," Pratt told CBS News.

Addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, President Obama rejected that theory.

"And so I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend that it's simply sufficient to grieve and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem," Mr. Obama said.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, Congress voted down the president's push for background checks on most firearm sales and smaller ammunition magazines.

Obama calls for reconsideration of gun control

But states have acted -- moving gun laws in both directions. In the two years after Sandy Hook, mostly Democratic-leaning states have passed 99 laws restricting access to firearms, while mostly Republican-leaning states have enacted 88 laws expanding access.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin represents Maryland, which tightened gun laws after Newtown.

"Anything we try to do in Congress is going to be a heavy lift," Cardin said. "It shouldn't be, but it is, that's the political landscape that we're dealing with in Congress. So we, we understand the realities."

Polls show the country is almost evenly split on the question of stricter gun control laws. Although a survey from last summer found that 92 percent of households with firearms supported a more expansive use of background checks.

The White House concedes the moment for tougher federal gun control laws came right after Sandy Hook, and is long since passed.