NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The most powerful supporter of gun owners in the United States, the National Rifle Association, broke its silence Tuesday, four days after a deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 28 people dead.
After a self-imposed media blackout that left many wondering how it would respond to the killings, it said in a statement its members were "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders."
The group -- typically outspoken about its positions even after shooting deaths -- also said it wanted to give families time to mourn before making its first public statements.
"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," the organization said.
As shares in publicly traded gun manufacturers were dropping for a third straight day Tuesday, the largest firearms maker in the United States said it is being put up for sale by its owner, which called last week's school shooting a "watershed event" in the American debate over gun control.
Freedom Group International makes Bushmaster rifles, the weapons thought to have been used in Friday's killings.
The New York-based private equity group Cerberus Capital Management -- which invests money on behalf of public employees such as teachers, among other clients -- said it will sell its controlling stake in the company, while investors fled other firearms makers.
Also on Tuesday, the White House said U.S. President Barack Obama is "actively supportive" of reinstating an assault weapons ban as the United States wrestled with the treacherous issue of gun control in the aftermath of the elementary school massacre.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would also support legislation to close the gun-show "loophole," which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, back-to-back funerals were held for little James Mattioli, 6, who especially loved math and recess, and Jessica Rekos, also 6, who loved horses and had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
A total of 26 people were gunned down at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history.
The gunman, who committed suicide, also killed his mother in her home.
Students returned to their classrooms Tuesday for the first time since the shooting, though not at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Those students will return to class after the winter break at the Chalk Hill School in the neighbouring town of Monroe.
That school was closed last year, the Connecticut Post reported.
The massacre has rattled the usual national dialogue on guns in America, where public opinion had shifted against tougher arms control in recent years and the gun lobby is a powerful political force.
Congressional gun rights supporters showed an increased willingness Tuesday to consider new legislation -- provided it also addresses mental-health issues and the impact of violent video games.
Republicans in the House of Representatives discussed the gun issue at their regular closed-door meeting Tuesday, and at least some were willing to consider gun control as part of a solution.
-- The Associated Press