Even though the Congress was not in session on Friday as word arrived of the mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, lawmakers flocked to social media to send their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, with most – but not all – side stepping the politics of gun control.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families & victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy,” said Speaker John Boehner, who ordered flags to half staff at the U.S. Capitol.
“Words cannot express the sadness and horror I feel at the horrendous shootings in Newtown,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), whose district is not far from the site of the attacks.
“As father to two young girls, I don’t know how life would go on after the murder of my child or one of their teachers,” Himes added in a statement on Twitter.
Most lawmakers used Twitter to relay their shock and sadness at the events.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible tragedy in Connecticut,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
“No words to describe the horror of the tragedy in Newtown,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA).
While most lawmakers stuck to that basic script, a few Democrats quickly called for a debate on gun control, arguing the shootings cannot be ignored.
“If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, a more liberal Democrat from New York City.
“Dear Colleagues: it’s time 2 act to control access 2 handguns,” wrote Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) on Twitter.
“This not about ducks & deer. I pray for the victims. I pray for our courage,” Edwards tweeted.
“We must act to stop this epidemic of gun violence,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
But in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, those calls for change on guns were a distinct minority, even among Democrats.
At the White House, there were a number of questions for the President’s Press Secretary Jay Carney, who made clear he was not interested right now in talking about gun control.
“Today is not the day to engage in the usual Washington policy debates,” said Carney.
Carney readily acknowledged that the President favors some new gun controls, but said now is the time for expressions of grief.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in recent years,” the President told the nation from the White House Briefing Room, as he fought back tears several times during his short remarks.
While Mr. Obama did not mention gun control, he seemed to allude to the idea during his statement.
“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,” the President said.