Mitt Romney and Brian Williams during the Republican candidate's… (NBC News handout )
Mitt Romney reiterated Wednesday that toughening gun control laws was not the appropriate response to the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 injured. But he also said that the gunman should not have had any of the weapons that he carried.
In an interview with Romney at the Tower of London, NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked the unofficial Republican nominee about the shooter’s access to an assault weapon and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
"Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices, and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already,” Romney replied, according to an excerpt released by NBC News on Wednesday afternoon. The full interview was scheduled to air on Wednesday’s "NBC Nightly News."
“But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."
Law enforcement officials have repeatedly said that the shooting suspect, James E. Holmes, had legally purchased four guns, a high-capacity clip and the ammunition they said he used in the theater massacre. Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said that when the candidate referred to illegal items, he meant the bombs and other devices that were set as booby traps for first responders in the suspect's apartment.
It’s unclear what Romney meant when he said the gunman should not have had “any kind of weapons,” since Romney has repeatedly said he does not believe existing gun laws should be changed.
The 100-round drum that Holmes allegedly possessed would have been illegal under a federal assault weapons ban that expired nearly a decade ago, and it is illegal in Massachusetts under a state law that Romney signed while governor. The AR-15 semiautomatic rifle was also banned under both laws, although modified versions could be sold legally, and authorities have not released the name of the manufacturer or other details of the AR-15 that Holmes allegedly fired during the opening moments of “The Dark Knight Rises” early Friday in Aurora, near Denver.
Romney sat down for the interview on the first day of a three-country overseas trip that will include meetings with top politicians in Britain, Israel and Poland, fundraising events with Americans living abroad and attendance at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in London on Friday.