President Joe Biden has said the US should ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines to tackle the “carnage” of gun violence.
Addressing the nation after a spate of mass shootings, Mr Biden said too many places had become “killing fields”.
He said if a ban was not possible the age limit for buying such weapons should at least go up from 18 to 21.
But deadlock on the issue between Republicans and Democrats in Congress means progress is seen as unlikely.
In order for any laws to pass, Republicans in the Senate need to back them, which is unlikely because they defend access to guns as a constitutional right for every American.
Even if some are privately sympathetic to stricter gun controls, as one analyst suggested to the BBC, they may also fear the electoral consequences of supporting them.
So far the only area of possible bipartisan agreement involves red flag laws, which let authorities take guns from people at high risk of harming themselves or others.
“This is not about taking away anyone’s guns,” said Mr Biden. “This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights… It’s about protecting children.”
“Why in God’s name should an ordinary citizen be able to purchase an assault weapon that holds 30-round magazines, that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes?” the Democratic president continued.
Mr Biden touted a 1994 ban on assault-style weapons that he helped pass. It lapsed after 10 years, and debate has raged ever since over whether it was effective in reducing gun violence.
His remarks come in the wake of the deadly shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas last week in which 21 people including 19 children were shot dead.
Buffalo, New York and Tulsa, Oklahoma have also seen mass shootings in recent days.
‘I can do whatever I want with my guns’
Private gun ownership is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
A House of Representatives hearing to debate new gun control proposals earlier in the day showed how hard it might be to make any progress.
Congressman Greg Steube, a Florida Republican, joined the Judiciary Committee hearing from his home via Zoom and displayed several handguns from his personal collection that he said would be banned if the legislation were passed.
A Democrat from Texas interjected to say she hoped the gun was not loaded, to which Mr Steube replied: “I’m at my house. I can do whatever I want with my guns.”
The Democratic-led Protecting Our Kids Act combines eight different gun control bills, and includes many of the proposals Mr Biden spoke of on Thursday.
Republicans, who make up half the seats in the 100-seat chamber, consider access to guns a constitutional right for every American. Most laws require require 60 votes to pass.
Matt Bennett from the Democratic think tank Third Way, told the BBC that many Senate Republicans – while privately sympathetic to stricter gun controls – feared losing votes to more right-wing pro-gun candidates more than they feared losing to Democrats.
Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court is deliberating on one of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws, in New York, that places tight restrictions on who can carry a gun in public.
If the justices strike down the law, as their comments in a November hearing suggested might happen, state-level bans across the nation on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines could end up being overturned.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 233 mass shootings in the US so far this year. It defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, excluding the shooter.