POLITICS
12/14/2012 01:57 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2012

White House On Newtown School Shooting: Today Not The Day For Gun Control Debate

WASHINGTON -- In an immediate response to a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today is not the day for a debate on gun control.

"I think it's important, on a day like today, to view this -- as I know the president, as a father, does, and I as a father and others who are parents certainly do, which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event," Carney told reporters in the daily White House press briefing. "There is, I am sure -- will be, rather -- a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day." Carney did say that President Barack Obama remains committed to renewing a ban on assault weapons.

The secretary noted that the president had first been informed of the shooting by his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and will continue to be briefed throughout the day. The White House also confirmed that the president spoke with FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to extend his concern and condolences. Carney said that it was "certainly possible" the president would make a public statement on today's shooting.

"I would rather not relay reactions at this point, because I don't have any confirmation to give to you about what exactly has happened there, or potential victims," Carney said, adding that the FBI is assisting both state and local law enforcement officials in Connecticut with response and investigation efforts. In light of the shooting, Carney also said he would keep the briefing free of the usual political debate in Washington.

According to initial reports, the shooting has left 27 dead, including 18 children. It marks the third mass shooting in the United States in recent months, following the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre in July and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in August. When asked by a reporter whether sufficient reflection had occurred since the shooting in Aurora, when Obama promised more action to combat gun violence, Carney reiterated that he did not think now was the time to discuss policy.

"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," Carney said. "We do that often and it's appropriate, and I'm sure the day for this will come, but today is not that day, in our mind. We're focused on what's happening in Connecticut."

At least five mass shootings have occurred since Obama took office in 2009. The president has been criticized for having made little progress on repeated pledges to make substantive reforms in gun control laws.

For more updates, follow The Huffington Post's live blog.

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