Updated 9/17/2013 at 8:03pm
(CNN) -The Washington Navy Yard shooting could possibly have been prevented if tougher background checks were in place, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, raising new concern about the frequency of mass shootings.
“The fact that– we do not have a firm enough background-check system– is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings. And, you know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings,” he said in an interview with Telemundo.
“Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now– as they're absorbing this incredible loss,” he added.
Obama pushed for “commonsense gun safety laws” that could help reduce gun violence, like the shooting in Washington that killed 12 people. The gunman also died.
“Initial reports indicate that this is an individual who may have had some mental health problems. The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings," he said.
Asked by Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart if the Navy Yard shooting meant Americans were condemned to live in a country where massacres are just a part of daily life, the president said that didn't have to be the case, but he put the onus for action on the Congress to reform on gun control laws.
"I have now, in the wake of Newtown, initiated a whole range of executive actions. We've put in place every executive action that I proposed right after Newtown happened," he said. "So I've taken steps that are within my control. The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move."
But the situation in Congress appears unchanged from this past spring when bipartisan legislation proposing tougher background checks failed to gain enough support.
Exasperated gun control advocates in the Senate said they remain several votes short of what is needed to pass tougher background checks to prevent felons and the mentally ill from buying guns.
"We don't have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who earlier led the Senate in a moment of silence for the victims of the tragedy. "I'd like to get them but we don't have them now."
"I don't know when enough is enough," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last year in Newtown, Connecticut, last year led an unsuccessful effort to toughen gun laws.
She said she is "not optimistic" the Navy Yard shooting would do enough to change the political equation in Congress where most Republicans and several Democrats remain wary of new gun laws.
In response to Newtown, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, tried to pass compromise background check legislation but it fell five votes shy on a vote in April.
He said he wants to wait for the facts to come in on the Navy Yard shooting before making a push to vote again on his bill because it would be "ridiculous" to have senators vote on it again "if we don't have the support."
Manchin hopes Democratic senators, like Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Begich of Alaska, and Republican senators like Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted against his bill before might change their minds and support it in the future.
Family members of Newtown victims will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday lobbying lawmakers to support tougher background checks. Their visit, which comes nine months after that incident, was planned before the Navy Yard shooting.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn't point to gun control when he was asked about the 12 fatalities at the Navy Yard at the hands of a sub-contractor who gained access to the base legally.
"My question is how do people get hired? It's not the weapons so much as how did he pass the security clearance? What kind of security screening do we have that we give secret clearances and jobs on important navy facilities? That to me is the bigger question," he said. "I don't think anything has changed about guns."
CNN's Dana Bash, Lisa Desjardins, and Becky Brittain contributed to this report.