Obama to visit 'Batman' shooting victims, families

Posted at 07/22/2012 11:33 AM | Updated as of 07/22/2012 5:30 PM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will travel to Colorado on Sunday to meet with wounded survivors and victims' families in the aftermath of a deadly shooting rampage at a movie theater in a Denver suburb, White House officials said on Saturday.

Obama's trip will come a day after local and federal authorities completed the painstaking process of disarming the booby-trapped apartment of the suspected gunman accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 during a midnight premiere of the new "Batman" film on Friday.

The visit will cast Obama in the role of consoler-in-chief for Americans mourning the victims of the mass shooting, which prompted the Democratic president and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, to put their campaigning temporarily on hold.

Obama, who had been due to leave on Monday on a three-day trip, decided to head West a day early to make a stop in Aurora, Colorado. He will then fly to San Francisco and return to the campaign trail on Monday with events in Nevada and California.

The White House offered scant details of Obama's schedule in Colorado, saying only that he will "visit with families of victims of the shooting as well as local officials." An administration official said the president would also see some of the wounded.

Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, called the shootings a reminder that life is fragile and promised that the federal government stood ready to do all it could to seek justice for the "heinous crime."

Locked in a close contest for the November 6 election, Obama cut short a campaign trip in Florida on Friday and returned to the White House after the shooting spree in Aurora. Romney also cancelled a round of campaign events.

The pause in political fighting was reminiscent of the aftermath of the attempted assassination of then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, when a gunman killed six people and wounded 13, including the Democratic U.S. lawmaker.

Obama went to Arizona shortly afterwards and won praise for his call for greater civility in public discourse. But that provided little more than a brief respite from the partisan rancor in Washington.

Gun control debate

Much like the Arizona shooting, the Colorado tragedy has spurred calls for stricter gun control in a country known its flourishing gun culture. But because of the strength of gun rights advocates, few predict changes in the laws.

In their initial comments on the Aurora shootings, neither Obama nor Romney mentioned gun control, which is considered politically toxic in an election year.

"Even as we come to learn how this happened and who's responsible, we may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize their fellow human beings," Obama said in his weekend address. "Such evil is senseless - beyond reason," he said.

Police took James Eagan Holmes, 24, into custody on Friday in a parking lot behind the cinema. He is expected to make his first court appearance on Monday.

The shooting evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, also a Denver suburb.

"If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's a reminder that life is fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious," the president said in his address.

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner echoed the president's sentiment in the weekly Republican address.

"I know that when confronted with evil we cannot comprehend, Americans pull together and embrace our national family more tightly," Boehner said.

"We join President Obama in sending condolences and prayers to the loved ones of those who were killed and wounded. And we all say ‘thank God' for the police, the first responders, the doctors, and the nurses whose swift and heroic efforts saved lives."