As the President and First Lady prepared to join with families in mourning the tragedy at Virginia Tech today, the White House would not take the bait of calls for new gun control legislation.
With the remarks of Acting Press Secretary Dana Perino and subsequent questions at today’s gaggle (early morning briefing) dealing exclusively with the shootings yesterday, it was only a matter of time before someone would bring up gun control and whether the Administration would now back tougher laws.
Sure enough, Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman asked about the need for federal gun control laws.
“Look, we understand that there’s going to be and there has been an ongoing national discussion, conversation and debate about gun control policy,” replied Perino, “Of course, we’re going to be participants in that conversation. Today, however, is a day that is time to focus on the families, the school and the community. Everyone’s been shaken to the core by this event and so I think that what we need to do is focus on support of the victims and their families and then also allow the facts of the case to unfold before we talk anymore about policies.”
Herman was undaunted and asked about the President’s concerns about guns.
“Ken, let me just refer you back to what I said before,” Perino retorted, “I think the facts of this case need to unfold. There has been an ongoing discussion and there will be continued conversation about gun control policy. We will participate in that but today is not the day.”
There was no talk about embattled Administration figures such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (whose testimony before Congress about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was postponed two days because of the tragedy) and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz or the Administration’s call for funding of US action in Iraq. Speaking for foreign journalists, Tass correspondent Andrei Sitov expressed condolences to Perino.
“This is a tragedy that was felt around the world,” said Perino, as she thanked Sitov. “The President and Mrs. Bush are very grateful for the heads of state and members of governments from around the world who have expressed their sympathies and their support. That is one of those things that is great about humanity — that it really comes out in such a time of tragedy such as this."
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