With President Obama's final election behind him, gun-control advocates said they expect the White House to begin pushing through an assortment of gun restrictions in coming months.
Obama rarely talked about guns during his re-election campaign, and when he did, it was mostly to reassure voters he had no plans to take away their constitutionally protected firearms.
The president has been preoccupied with negotiations over a deficit-reduction deal since last month's election, but activists said they expect Obama to become a much more vocal proponent of gun control in 2013. On their wish list is a ban on assault weapons, mandatory background checks for gun buyers and the closing of private-sale loopholes.
"I expect President Obama to take the lead on closing the gaping hole in our 'system' for keeping guns from criminals, underage youth and other prohibited persons," Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said. "The federal government's failure to require all gun sellers to verify that prospective gun owners have passed a background check before transferring a firearm is the single biggest flaw in the current system."
Gun sales soared to record levels since Obama took office, even though the president didn't impose any additional gun restrictions during his first term. Gun-control advocates predicted the country may be more open to gun restrictions after the high-profile shootings in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last summer and the recent murder-suicide involving a professional football player.
Bob Costas, an NBC sports broadcaster, advocated more gun control Sunday during a halftime discussion of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, saying Belcher and his girlfriend "would both be alive today" if he didn't have a gun.
"I am certain Obama thinks our gun laws are insane, and he doesn't ever have to run for office again," said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "It won't be lost on many people that a sportscaster was willing to speak out about the issue but Obama hasn't found the guts to take on Republicans yet."
Everitt said White House aides have privately assured gun-control advocates that the president would tackle the issue in his second term but didn't commit to specific proposals.
The lone gun restriction Obama explicitly backed during this year's campaign was a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
"What I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally," Obama said during one of the debates. "Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced."
The White House said Obama intends to protect gun rights while making it harder for lawbreakers to get guns. But an administration official declined to discuss the issue further, saying, "Don't have anything new on this."
Gun-rights advocates, meanwhile, say they're bracing for a political battle.
"We're not optimistic. We're planning for the worst," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "We've told people to plan for gun bans and a Supreme Court stacked with anti-gun judges. The president has a variety of options at his disposal -- we don't take any of them for granted."