Wearing a dark suit and light blue tie, he spoke under partly cloudy skies and flanked by pine trees, an American flag and bundles of lumber. In his four-minute remarks, Romney said that “today we feel not only a sense of grief, but perhaps also of helplessness.”
“But there is something we can do,” he said. “We can offer comfort to someone nearest to the suffering.... And we can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado.”
Among those attending Romney’s event was Mike Seraikis, 57, an environmental contractor from Concord.
“Look at the video games. What are they? Violence,” he said. “Look at the movies. What are they? Violence.”
Obama was informed of the massacre at 5:26 a.m. in Palm Beach, Fla., by homeland security adviser John O. Brennan, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
His campaign said later that “in light of the tragedy in Colorado,” Obama was canceling a subsequent event in Winter Park, Fla., and returning to the White House.
Carney told reporters that Obama “wants to be back in Washington to get further updates” on the shooting.
Vice President Biden said: “The reason this is so deeply felt by all Americans is that, but for the grace of God, the victims could have been any one of our children, in any one of our towns. It is every parent’s worst nightmare to receive ‘that phone call’ and to sit by their child’s bedside, praying.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement: “Confronted with incomprehensible evil, Americans pull together and embrace our national family more tightly. I join President Obama, and every American, in sending my thoughts and prayers to the victims of this awful tragedy. We will all stand with them, as one nation, in the days ahead.”
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) called for tougher gun-control laws. He told WOR radio: “You know, soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.... I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop.”
Bloomberg added: “No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely, not just in generalities — specifically what are they going to do about guns?” He said gun violence is “killing people every day, and it’s growing, and it’s not just an inner-city, East Coast, West Coast, big city phenomenon. Aurora is not a big city.”
Asked about a connection between gun control and the Aurora shooting, Carney said: “As you know, the president believes we need to take common-sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing laws do not get them.... We’re making progress in that regard in terms of improving the volume and quality of information on background checks, but I have nothing additional on that for you. This is obviously a recent event.”
In a strongly worded statement, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group, said that “we don’t want sympathy” from the president or other elected officials. “We want action.... We are insistent that our elected leaders take action to prevent future tragedies. Political cowardice is not an excuse for evasion and inaction on this life-and-death issue.”
Gross said the shooting rampage was “another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said in a statement: “This is not only an act of extreme violence, it is also an act of depravity.” But he added, “Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis. This one of those times.”
A discordant note came from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who declared that America’s move away from its “Judeo-Christian beliefs” had caused God to withdraw “his protective hand” from the country.
Gohmert, vice chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, said in a radio interview as he discussed the shooting: “What have we done with God? We told him that we don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.”
Sonmez reported from Bow, N.H. Branigin reported from Washington. Philip Rucker in Boston contributed to this report.