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Obama on gun control petition: 'We hear you'

Following the Newtown, Conn., shooting rampage, the White House releases a video in response to the public outcry for stricter gun regulations.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says his administration has received an outpouring of support for stricter gun laws following last week's elementary school massacre in Connecticut, telling respondents to an online petition: "We hear you."


The president said in a video released Friday that he has been encouraged that many gun owners have said there are steps the nation can take to prevent more deadly shootings, "steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids."

"I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts because if there's even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try," Obama said.

Obama was holding a moment of silence on Friday morning at the White House marking one week since the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The National Rifle Association, the country's foremost gun lobby, held a news conference on Friday in the aftermath of the shootings.


Related: Disbelief in some quarters at NRA’s Newtown response

The president has challenged the NRA to "do some self-reflection" and join a broad effort to reduce gun violence. The organization said Tuesday it would offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

A long-dormant national conversation about guns has reignited: some are calling for an assault weapons ban while other feel guns themselves aren't the root of the problem. So far the shootings have sparked several gun buy-back programs and even an anti-gun video organized by big-city mayors – but the NRA says it's the entertainment industry that is partly to blame. NBC's John Yang reports.

In Friday's video, the president responded to a "We the People" petition on the White House website that allows the public to submit petitions. Nearly 200,000 people have urged Obama to address gun control in one petition and petitions related to gun violence have amassed more than 400,000 signatures.

Full coverage of the Sandy Hook school shooting from NBC News

Obama has directed Vice President Joe Biden and a team of Cabinet officials to offer concrete proposals by next month on how to tighten gun laws and improve Americans' access to mental healthcare, strengthen school safety and address a culture that glorifies guns and violence.

Biden's group is considering reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons, which expired in 2004, closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and restricting high-capacity magazines.

The men and women who first arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School tells TODAY's Erica Hill that "this is something that is going to take us a long time to work through."

Gun-control measures have faced strong opposition in Congress for the past decade but Obama has suggested he intends to make it a key part of his agenda next year. In the video, he urged the public to become involved in

"If we're going to succeed, it's going to take a sustained effort of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying 'enough' on behalf of all our kids," Obama said.

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A nation mourns after the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook Elementary, which left 20 children and six staff members dead.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the people of Newtown, Michelle Obama said she was "so proud of the outpouring of love and support that has come from every corner of America" in the wake of the tragedy.

Writing in the Hartford Courant newspaper, she added: "As a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families. Like so many Americans, I wish there were something - anything - I could do or say to ease your anguish.

"As my husband has said, in the coming weeks, he will use all the powers of his office to engage citizens from across this country to find ways to prevent tragedies like this one. And please know that every minute of every day, we are thinking of you, and praying for you, and holding you and your families in our hearts as you begin the slow and wrenching work of healing and moving forward."

A massive, unexpected wave of goodwill began online with a simple idea: "Imagine if we all committed 20 acts of kindness to honor the lost children of Newtown." NBC News National and International Correspondent Ann Curry sent the message on Twitter and Facebook. The idea has evolved into a viral effort known as "26 Acts of Kindness," in honor of the students and faculty who died at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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