WASHINGTON — As news filtered in Friday from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said "today is not the day," to engage in a policy debate over gun control.
The shooting at an elementary school killed 27, the Associated Press reported Friday afternoon.
"I think that day will come, but today's not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation," Carney told reporters in a somber press briefing at the White House.
Carney ducked the question when asked when would be a good time to engage in a substantive debate on gun control, repeating that today isn't the time. Obama has drawn criticism for never making gun control an administration priority.
After 12 people were killed in a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Co. in July, Obama said, "I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country," Obama said. Carney was pressed on those remarks, asked whether enough reflection had been done since that tragedy, and Carney declined to answer.
"I really encourage all of us to give a moment here to focus on what is an unfolding tragedy in Connecticut, and not to engage in Washington policy battles of long running today," he said.
Asked about reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban, which Obama has supported but never invested political capital in, Carney said it "does remain a commitment" of the president's.
"The president as a father and I as a father certainly...feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected," Carney added, sharing Obama's reaction. “As a father, incidents like these weigh heavily on him.”
Obama was informed of the shooting at 10:30 a.m. by Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan in the Oval Office. Obama spoke with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy about the shooting, and expressed his concern and condolences, Carney said.
Carney added that the administration will "do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement, to support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event."