The most senior Republican woman in Congress said that lawmakers can hold hearings and investigate the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut and “try to better understand exactly what happened,” but she would not say whether Congress should review the nation’s gun laws.

“I’m just devastated by what happened. It’s awful, and it’s so sad,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the incoming chairman of the House Republican Conference, which will make her the fourth-ranking member of her party’s caucus.

“We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place,” she said when asked about a potential review of gun laws. “I think we have to be careful about new, suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

Pressed on what Congress could do beyond addressing gun laws to at least explore the issue further, she said “we can hold the hearings, we can dig further and try to better understand exactly what happened and what drives individuals to take the lives of the innocent this way. It’s very important that we ask those questions, get the answers, so we can, wherever possible, prevent these types of situations from happening.”

McMorris Rodgers’s comments appeared to be the first made on-camera by a senior congressional leader Friday following the Connecticut shooting.

In a written statement, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the horror of the shooting “seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil.”

“Let us all come together in God’s grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering,” Boehner said. “Let us give thanks for all those who helped get people to safety, and take heart from their example. The House of Representatives – like every American – stands ready to assist the people of Newtown, Connecticut.”

In a separate statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We are all crushed by the news of today’s horrifying massacre in Newtown. I invite everyone to lift their hearts in prayer for the victims and their families and to unite around the hope that there will soon come a day when parents no longer fear this kind of violence in our nation again.”

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