Obama: Keep Aurora In Hearts And Thoughts
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
I'm sorry to interrupt that conversation, but we have developments to bring you, here, involving the Colorado shooting last night in Aurora, Colorado. President Obama's commenting on the tragedy. Let's listen for a moment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers, they were husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
And if there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it's not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately it's how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.
INSKEEP: President Obama in Fort Myers, Florida. Let's hear some more.
OBAMA: It's what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That's what matters. At the end of the day, what we'll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others. That's why we're here.
I'm sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day. Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight. And I'm sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as nation.
So, again, I'm so grateful that all of you are here. I am so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This I think is a day for prayer and reflection.
OBAMA: So what I'd ask everybody to do - I'd like to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day. So if everybody can just take a moment.
INSKEEP: President Obama, here. We'll stay with this moment of silence. We'll continue listening.
OBAMA: Thank you everybody. I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today. May the lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come. I'm grateful to all of you. And I hope that as a consequence of today's events - as you leave here - you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.
OBAMA: Thank you very much everybody. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And that's President Obama, speaking from a campaign stop in Fort Myers, Florida about a tragedy this morning, across the country from where he is, in Aurora, Colorado. For those who are just coming new to this story, let us do a little recap here. Aurora, Colorado is a suburb outside of Denver, and authorities are still, this morning, trying to piece together what happened late last night; what led a man to open fire in a packed movie theater. Twelve people, as of this hour, are dead, dozens more are wounded. The movie theater was showing the latest Batman movie: "The Dark Knight Rises." And we know some things. We know that the FBI has named James Holmes as the suspect. He is 24 years old and he's being questioned by investigators.
And we have in our studio, this morning, besides Steve and me - we have correspondent Carrie Johnson; we also have with us, Washington political editor, Ron Elving. And let me just start with you, Carrie. You are up on some of the information - the weapons used - why don't you give us a little update on that.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Sure. Authorities recovered four weapons from the movie theater. They are a rifle, a shotgun, and two pistols. One of the key questions, moving forward right now, that federal investigators are trying to answer, is how this suspect got those guns - whether they were purchased legally, when, what kind of planning was involved, whether any other suspects may have helped him. At this point, no signs of other people being involved, but authorities are going to try to run that to ground as quickly as possible.
INSKEEP: Guarantee that they will look at every connection this person has had and everybody that he's ever met, probably, will be asked a question or two, I would think.
JOHNSON: Steve, the president himself is being briefed on this investigation, so that gives you a sense as to how high this is going.
INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the president's role in this, since we just heard President Obama. You get a sense here, Ron Elving, of the complexity of the job of anyone who is in that office. He's campaigning, he's in Florida, he wants to be talking about other things, but this is the job, this is the duty.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: The president had, on his schedule today, two political rallies that were going to be real rocking rallies - where they talked about the president's attacks on Mitt Romney, where they talked about president's defense of his health care law, where they really went all out at the political issues of the moment. They had a whole plan for this day, they had a whole plan for the weekend. All of that, of course, is completely knocked in a (unintelligible) these events.
INSKEEP: You've seen so many presidents deal with tragedies, what is required of our chief executive at a time like this?
ELVING: Dignity, I suppose, is the first word. I think everyone looks to the president to convene a moment of silence, if you will, a moment of prayer for many people, to say this is a tragedy affecting us all. It's a little hard to measure which of these events is going to have exactly this kind of impact. Certainly, not too far from Aurora, Colorado, in Littleton, Colorado - the Columbine High School massacre - that had this kind of effect. And the country grieved over that for months, for years. We never know, exactly, which of the kinds of tragedies of this kind are going to really make an impression on the country, like that. Certainly, the times when we lost astronauts had that effect.
President Reagan came out, very famously back in the 1980s, and talked about the loss of those astronauts in the shuttle that blew up. And that was a moment when the entire country paused and watched the president give one of his most moving addresses, one of the most moving moments as president of the United States. So, that is what we've come to expect. It's a little bit of the, if you will, the grandfatherly, fatherly role that we assign to our president, because he is our head of state. And, of course, he is a head of state who is embattled, right now, in a very hot and heavy political campaign. But he need to step out of that role and play the role we saw him play here this morning, even though the venue and the audience that was prepared for this moment...
INSKEEP: Campaign venue, yeah.
ELVING: ...was awkwardly political. And you could hear from the crowd, people were eager to show their support for the president and wanted to have a very different kind of event today. Obviously, that wasn't possible.
MONTAGNE: You know, Ron, just to say we will probably expect to hear from the challenger to President Obama, Mitt Romney, some time later this morning or today. But one thing's already happened is New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has challenged both the president and the Republican candidate to come out and talk about gun control - what they're going to do about that. I mean, it's an interesting - something that's injected into, you know, the campaign...
INSKEEP: Soothing words are nice, but when are they going to stand up and say what they want to do about this problem - meaning guns.
MONTAGNE: And this hasn't been an issue, so far. Do you think it will become one?
ELVING: It has not been an issue in this campaign and I do not expect that it will become one. President Obama, despite the characterization that's been put on him by many supporters of the Second Amendment and gun rights, has not made any moves against guns when he's been president. As he's been president, has said that he believes the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not just militias. So he has taken a relatively, for a Democratic president, pro gun kind of position - or at least neutral on all the controversies having to do with the Second Amendment. I don't expect that to change - it hasn't changed with all of the other violent events that have happened, as you mentioned, this morning.
INSKEEP: Carrie Johnson.
JOHNSON: Yeah, and in fact, Ron, I covered a hearing on Capitol Hill six or eight months ago, focused on the victims of the shooting in Arizona in which Congressman Gabrielle Giffords was shot - some of those victims had called on Congress, in particular, the Senate, to pass some laws that would require who buy guns at gun shows to have to register and undergo background checks. Nothing has happened.
INSKEEP: OK, thanks very much. That's NPR senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Glad you could come by.
ELVING: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: And NPR's Carrie Johnson, who covers the justice department, thanks for your insight as well.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
INSKEEP: And just to review, here, President Obama has been addressing last night's shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a movie theater, a Batman premier, where a dozen people - that's the latest count - a dozen people were killed. Dozens were injured. One man is in custody, now identified as James Holmes, he's 24 years old. Speaking about all this, the president said to an audience, this morning, in Florida, life is very fragile. Our time here is limited. And continuing to react to what happened, he said, my daughters go to the movies. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.
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