Obama to meet Denver victims
US president Barack Obama will fly to Colorado today to meet victims of the Batman cinema massacre and their families, the White House said.
The deadly shootings in Aurora briefly silenced the presidential campaign, prompting both Mr Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to cut short their schedules and pull advertising in the state out of respect for the victims.
Mr Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address that he hoped everyone took time this weekend “for prayer and reflection - for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover”.
The president said Americans should also think about “all the victims of the less publicised acts of violence that plague our communities on a daily basis. Let us keep all these Americans in our prayers”.
Aides said Mr Obama received updates from his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, on the investigation into the shooting and the attempts by authorities to gain access to the suspect’s booby-trapped apartment.
Mr Obama and Mr Romney used campaign appearances on Friday to focus attention on the need for national unity in the aftermath of the shooting. Their campaign teams rescheduled show appearances by top aides and surrogates for today, essentially providing a break in what has been an increasingly testy campaign.
The rampage injected a new tone into the campaign after Mr Obama and Mr Romney had clashed repeatedly over the economy, health care programmes for the elderly, and tax returns.
Mr Obama was set to start his second day of events in Florida when the shootings occurred, prompting his team to address the violence at a previously scheduled rally in Fort Myers and scrapping an event in suburban Orlando.
He told supporters in Fort Myers that the shootings served as a “reminder that life is very fragile”.
“Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”
Mr Romney echoed Mr Obama’s call for unity, saying at a previously scheduled event in Bow, New Hampshire, that he joined with the president and first lady in offering condolences for those “whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil in Colorado”.
“The answer is that we can come together. We will show our fellow citizens the good heart of the America we know and love,” he said.
House of Representatives speaker John Boehner said in the Republican address yesterday that politicians joined Mr Obama in offering condolences and prayers to the loved ones of those who were killed and wounded.
“I know that when confronted with evil we cannot comprehend, Americans pull together and embrace our national family more tightly,” Mr Boehner said.
Yet, beyond the calls for a higher purpose, the shootings could raise the profile of gun rights in the presidential campaign, an issue which has played a minor role so far.
As a senator Mr Obama voted to leave gun makers and dealers open to civil lawsuits, and as an Illinois state politician he supported a ban on all forms of semi-automatic weapons and tighter state restrictions generally on firearms.
Following the killing of six people and wounding of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, last year, Mr Obama called for a series of steps to “keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place”.
Among those steps was a better government background checking system. The administration said on Friday that it has indeed improved the amount and quality of information, allowing checks to be more thorough.
But the administration has offered no detailed, public explanation of how it is following up on all Mr Obama’s previous promises and it had no comment about any need for new legislation.
“The president believes that we need to take common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.
Mr Romney backed some gun control measures when he was governor of Massachusetts. When he challenged Senator Edward Kennedy in 1994 he declared: “I don’t line up with the NRA.” In April, Mr Romney told the National Rifle Association, an influential lobbying group representing gun owners, he was a guardian of the Second Amendment.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the Republican candidate believed the “best way to prevent gun violence is to vigorously enforce our laws”.