The challenge for lawmakers in the months ahead will be striking the right balance between protecting the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms with the expressed need by Republicans and Democrats alike to protect young Americans.
Polling offers mixed messages for politicians looking for guidance.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll in the days after the Connecticut massacre showed roughly half or more favoring a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. But seven in 10 were opposed to banning the sale of handguns to anyone except law enforcement officers.
The voices of gun owners here and elsewhere illustrate their struggle to square issues of rights and safety.
At a Charleston, W. Va., mall, 31-year-old Republican Chris Feldhaus suggested he was open to new restrictions on assault weapons.
"But you've got to protect yourself. Because if you take guns away, then how do we protect ourselves against the criminals that are going to find them regardless?" he said.
The father of three doesn't own a gun, saying his wife doesn't feel comfortable with them. But the recent shootings changed his mind.
"Now I will probably be buying a gun," Feldhaus said. "I've been wanting to get one. There's too much going on with the world."
In Virginia, retired salesman Mike Graham said he has "deep concern" that the Connecticut shooting will result in tighter gun laws.
"Once you start saying, 'This gun is good, this gun is bad,' it becomes blurred, then they're all bad. And that's wrong. You end up everything is illegal," said Graham, 57, as he left a Richmond gun shop and shooting range.
Back at the Kittery Trading Post, Clark declared that he has no confidence that Washington politicians will fix the problem.
"I think Washington screws up everything they touch," he says. "I think it needs to be dealt with at the state level."