During his time in office President Obama has already traveled to two cities to comfort those involved in senseless shootings — Fort Hood, Texas in 2009 and Tucson, Arizona in 2011 — and today he headed to Aurora, Colorado to meet with the survivors of the theater shooting, and the victims' loved ones. In a speech afterward, Obama said he came to them, "not so much as president as I do as a father and a husband," and a representative of the country, to let them know we're "thinking about them at this moment, and we will continue to think about them each and every day." Yet, while the president met with those affected, his administration confirmed that it's hoping to avoid being dragged into the revived debate over gun control.
At the victims' request, Obama did not use the gunman's name in his remarks at the University of Colorado hospital, and said “Although the perpetrator of this act has received a lot of attention, that attention will fade way." Instead, Obama told the touching story of 19-year-old Allie Young, who stood up when the gunman threw a smoke canister into the theater and was among the first shot. Her best friend, 21-year-old Stephanie Davies, pulled her out of the aisle and put pressure on her wound. The president said:
"Alllie said she needed to run; Stephanie refused to go. Instead, with her other hand, she called 911 on her cell phone. Once the SWAT team came in, they were still trying to clear the theater. Stephanie then, with the help of several others, carries Allie across two parking lots to where the ambulance is waiting. And because of Stephanie's timely actions -- I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs — she is going to be fine. I don't know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did or the courage Allie showed."
He went on to say that Allie and Stephanie show "what is best in us" as Americans.
While even Mitt Romney praised Obama for visiting the victims and their families, saying it was "the right thing," it's likely his political response won't be as popular. On Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that, as predicted, the administration will not be pushing for new gun control measures, including the reauthorization of the assault-weapon ban that expired in 2004. Carney said:
“As you know, there’s been opposition to that since it expired within Congress ... The president is focused on doing the things that we can do that protect Second Amendment rights which he thinks is important but also make it harder for individuals who should not under existing law have weapons to obtain them.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki gave a less definitive answer, saying "It's really too early to say how this will play." We doubt Mayor Bloomberg will let the two candidates sidestep the issue that easily.