US President Barack Obama may take executive action intended to prevent gun attacks in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, his vice president has said.
Joe Biden said that Mr Obama was "determined to take action" against gun violence and was considering making executive orders to stop further attacks.
Last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 20 children were gunned down with a semi-automatic rifle, reopened the debate on America's liberal gun laws.
Mr Biden has been meeting victims of gun violence and members of America's powerful gun lobby as part of an investigation into how the country deals with guns.
He is due to make his recommendations to Mr Obama later this month.
Speaking at a White House conference, he said that occasionally something so grave happened that it "awakens the conscience of the country".
He said that the massacre of the six and seven-year-old children in Connecticut had weighed on that conscience "like nothing I've seen in my career".
Mr Biden has met America's most powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which insists the answer to the problem with gun violence is to arm more "good guys".
The NRA suggests putting armed security officers in every school.
Mr Obama is hoping to announce his next steps to tackle the gun issue after he is officially sworn in for his second term in office on January 21.
A coalition of conservative and gun-rights groups are organising a "Gun Appreciation Day" to coincide with the President's inauguration.
They have called on people to visit gun ranges and shops to show support and to fly US flags with "hands off my gun" on.
Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 and gunned down 26 people after shooting dead his mother at their nearby home. He then killed himself.
He had taken his mother's guns, including a rifle which fires 20 to 30 rounds at a fast pace.
The AF-15 style rifle he used is America's most popular rifle. It is also the weapon most commonly used in mass shootings in the US and is the same as the one used by the gunman in the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
Despite the calls for the overhaul of the gun laws, there has also been an increase in the number of people applying for approval to buy guns.
It illustrates a complicated and often conflicting relationship with guns in a country where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the second amendment of the constitution.
Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in the head two years ago in a mass attack, is forming a political action committee to counter the existing gun lobby while reaching out to gun owners like herself.
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed closing loopholes in his state's ban on assault weapons and on clips that carry more than 10 bullets. If passed those measures would give New York one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation.
Mr Cuomo reportedly also wants to require periodic follow-ups for handgun licence holders to make sure they are still qualified to possess a gun.
But as the nation's shock and sorrow begins to fade over the Connecticut attack, some gun rights advocates are already fighting tighter gun restrictions. The Senate's top Republican has warned it could be spring before Congress begins considering any gun legislation.
"The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week, pointing to looming debates over the country's borrowing limit and massive deficit.