Los Angeles: America`s latest mass shooting prompted Barack Obama to call for stricter controls Thursday, but his dialed-back rhetoric underscored the complexity of the incident and the perennial difficulty in forcing change.
Twenty-four hours after 14 people were shot dead in California, Obama -- surrounded by solemn security aides and the Oval Office`s totems of political power -- called for action.
But there was none of the righteous fury of Obama`s dozen or more previous calls to action.
Nor did his remarks drip with the aching sorrow that followed the wanton slaughter of primary school kids at Sandy Hook school in 2012, a moment Obama describes as the worst of his presidency.
That may be, in part, because the contours of the attacks are not yet clear.
A terror motive has not been ruled out, and unknown if the weapons were acquired legally or illegally.
"At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred," Obama said in a largely apolitical statement.
"We do know that the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry at their homes. But we don`t know why they did it."
Obama played counselor-in-chief, acknowledging what many in the United States are thinking -- that this happens much too often.
"We see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there`s nothing we can do about it."
But gone were the indignant demands that the Republican-controlled Congress act immediately to stiffen background checks.
"This is not normal," Obama said In response to shootings that killed 12 people at a women`s health clinic in Colorado just days ago. "We can`t let it become normal."
"If we truly care about this - if we`re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience - then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."
Following the California shootings the tone was more restrained. Instead, Obama said, "we all have a part to play" in tackling gun violence.
"As the investigation moves forward, it`s going to be important for all of us -- including our legislatures -- to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we`re making it a little harder for them to do it."
But it is increasingly unclear what the White House`s own part might be.
Obama has flirted with changing the laws by executive order, but experts believe such measures would be difficult to implement and may go beyond the legal power of the presidency.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday confirmed that the administration had resorted to looking at existing laws to see how they could be implemented more forcefully or used for a new end.
Obama`s latest response to the latest spasm of American violence may reflect the specifics of events in California, but they once again show that gun control is an issue that explodes the myth of an imperial presidency like no other.