SAN FRANCISCO — President Barack Obama said Friday he refuses to accept the idea that regular mass shooting are "the new normal" in America. He acknowledged, though, that it will take a shift in public opinion before the country acts to tighten access to guns.
Obama said his first comments on the church shootings in South Carolina, in which he said that political realities foreclosed action by Congress, had been misinterpreted by some as showing he was resigned to inaction on the issue of access to guns.
"I'm not resigned," he told the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "I have faith that we will eventually do the right thing. I was simply making the point that we have to move public opinion. We have to feel a sense of urgency."
The president said it that more thoughtful debate is needed from partisans on both sides on the issue — "without demonizing all gun owners who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but also without suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody's guns away."
He held out evolving public opinion on gay marriage and climate change as evidence that attitudes can change.
Obama says he couldn't say that the gun control legislation he pushed unsuccessfully earlier in his tenure would have stopped the Charleston shootings, "but we might still have more Americans with us."
"You all might have had to attend fewer funerals," he told the mayors.
Obama held out actions by mayors from both parties around on the country on issues such as the minimum wage, family leave and broader access to preschool as evidence that changes at the local level can make a difference in areas where Congress has declined to advance his priorities. And he urged the mayors to help advance his trade agenda, which has come up against stiff resistance from some Democrats in Congress.
"Put some pressure on Congress to get this done," he urged.
Despite the Democratic revolt over his trade policy, Obama is using his California trip to raise political money for lawmakers who voted against him on the issue, fitting in four fundraisers over two days with tickets as high as $33,400.
Later Friday, he planned to appear with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at a fundraiser in her San Francisco district, awkwardly coming as the two remain opposed over the trade legislation that is a top priority for his second-term agenda. Pelosi was on hand for the mayors' gathering as well, and the president had a kiss on the cheek for her at the outset of the event.
Pelosi, in her remarks to the mayors, praised the president's middle-class economic policies and his health care law, but she didn't mention the trade legislation.
The fundraiser with Pelosi was expected to draw more than 50 donors to the Sea Cliff home of retired hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.
Before leaving Los Angeles, Obama sat in comedian Marc Maron's garage studio for an hourlong podcast interview that will be available Monday. Obama then planned to spend Father's Day weekend in Palm Springs, a favorite golf destination, while his wife and daughters are in Europe.
Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler