Violent video games and a "culture of violence" found in the media could be contributing factors to mass shootings, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday.
"There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge - they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games," Hickenlooper said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Perhaps that's why all these assault weapons are used."
Hickenlooper is all too aware of the devastating toll of a mass shooting after 12 people were killed and 58 wounded at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in July. The suspected gunman is a 24-year-old former doctoral student.
The governor said the "the heart of every person in Colorado" goes out to those in Connecticut affected by Friday's elementary school shooting, where 20 students and six adults were killed.
"Our hearts are breaking here for them," Hickenlooper told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "We know exactly how they feel."
The Democratic governor argued that some gun regulations need to be tweaked but said more immediate changes can take place by targeting mental health. Since this summer's deadly shooting in Aurora, he said his state has spent almost $20 million in new programs to support those dealing with mental illness and educate others to recognize symptoms that could be dangerous.
"That's something we can do immediately without getting into some of the battles of gun legalization or restricting access to guns," he said, though acknowledging the "discussion of gun safety is going to continue."
In particular, he said the debate will focus on access to high-capacity magazines. His support for tougher laws in the state marks a change in policy for the governor, who earlier this year said stricter gun laws would not have prevented the Aurora shooting.
But Hickenlooper argued the "country is based on the Second Amendment" and pointed to cases that have "repeatedly" shown the amendment "does protect peoples' rights to bear arms, to have guns."
"My grandfather taught me how to shoot and clean a 12-gauge shotgun and showed me how to hunt, and I've showed my son," he said. "That tradition is very powerful throughout this country."
As Newtown, Connecticut, grapples with the tragedy - one of the nation's worst mass shootings - Hickenlooper recalled his meetings with the families of victims in Aurora.
"I remember how surreal it was," he said. "They're all dealing with something beyond anything they could have ever imagined. It's the worst thing they'll ever see in their lives.
"It's unspeakably hard; there aren't words," he added. "Don't even know how to put it in words."