A White House spokesman said Friday that the shooting rampage at a Connecticut school saddened President Barack Obama as a father, but that "today's not the day" for a discussion about possible gun control measures to be taken in response to the massacre.
"Today's not ... a day to engage in the usual Washington policy debates," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "That day will come, but today's not that day."
Carney's admonition came as news organizations reported that as many as 27 people, including 18 children, were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"As a father, incidents like these weigh heavily on him—and, I think, on everyone who has children," Carney said, highlighting "the enormous suffering" of parents of those killed.
Obama got word of the tragedy at 10:30 a.m. from Homeland Security adviser John Brennan. He later discussed the situation with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and shared his "condolences and concern," Carney said.
At an afternoon press briefing, Carney said renewing a federal assault weapons ban "does remain a commitment" of the president. The ban expired in 2004, and Obama has taken no serious steps to renew it on Capitol Hill.
Carney declined to answer repeated questions on when would be an appropriate time for lawmakers in Washington to discuss possible actions to prevent future tragedies.
"Our minds and our focus need to be on what's happening there and providing assistance where we can to those who need it," he said, urging "enormous sympathy for the families that are affected."
One reporter pointed to Obama's remarks in July just days after a shooting spree that left 12 dead and about 60 injured at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
"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 at the time.
Obama has made similar comments before, including at a January 2011 memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which then-Rep. Gabby Giffords was grievously wounded.
"We have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future," Obama said. "But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do."