President Barack Obama on Wednesday night vowed to do everything he could to prevent "not just of gun violence but violence at every level" in the wake of the Colorado theater mass shooting.

"I think we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage," he said in New Orleans at the Urban League Convention.

"But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

The July 20 massacre in Aurora, Colorado left 12 people dead and wounded 58 others. The suspected gunman, James Holmes, entered the packed midnight showing of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises and threw two canisters of tear gas before firing into the crowd with an AR-15 assault rifle.

"Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora," Obama said. "We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them. We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope. And we also pray for those who succumb to the less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day."

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