President Obama’s spokesman blamed Congress for the lack of stronger gun control legislation and promised that the Justice Department would improve background checks to enhance security.

The president’s approach is that we should work with Congress when possible and administratively when allowed,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters when asked about strengthening gun control laws — laws that must respect Second Amendment rights, he said.

“[Obama] does support renewing the assault weapons ban,” Carney said today, in the wake of the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin yesterday. “There has been reluctance by Congress to pass that renewal.”

Carney’s call for Congress to pass gun control legislation was muted. “If such legislation emerges, the president will evaluate it, the White House will evaluate it, guided by the principle I talked about earlier,” he said. When asked why Obama does not pressure Congress to pass such a law as he has in the past, Carney demurred by saying “there’s a lot of legislation the president has a position on.” He reiterated that “we all recognize the situation in Congress with respect to that renewal.”

In the meantime, Carney said, the Justice Department will “enhance security by making it harder for those who should not have these weapons to obtain them” through improved background checks.