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By now we know the depth of the horrors that took place in an Aurora, Colorado theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, just after midnight early Friday morning. But as the candidates woke up that day, the details were still unfolding. Still, neither President Obama nor GOP hopeful Mitt Romney used the tragic event as an opportunity to play politics. Both are to be commended for their swift, decidedly unpolitical focus on the families and the victims.
Obama used his previously scheduled campaign engagement in Florida on Friday to say, “I’m so grateful that all of you are here. I’m so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This is a day for prayer and reflection.” He asked the crowd to pause in a moment of silence. Obama then cancelled his afternoon events
Also previously scheduled to campaign that day, Romney said in a statement, “Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more. We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice." Romney used his first appearance of the day, in New Hampshire, to address the shootings, after which he and wife Ann cancelled the rest of their appearances.
Over the weekend, the president made a trip to Colorado to be with the victims, and afterward he spoke to the nation in a speech that was presidential but not political. In it, he said, “The perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the past couple of days. What will be remembered are the good people impacted by this tragedy.” (He did call upon the country’s leaders to “do something about this senseless violence,” in case that merits any reading between the lines.)
After a moment of silence at a fundraising event in San Francisco, Romney made reference to the president’s Colorado trip, and said it was "the right thing for the president to be doing on this day. I appreciate that." It was a rare instance of praise for the democratic incumbent by his challenger. Romney also noted that his own remarks would not be as partisan as normal at that event given the circumstances.
With more than three months left until the election, there’s plenty of time to see where the conversation leads. I hope it eventually forces both candidates to address their positions on gun control in a meaningful way, and that that eventually leads to serious, long overdue reform above the influence of the NRA lobby. But for now, let’s keep the focus where it should be: on the families affected by the tragedy.
WATCH: How to talk to kids about the tragedy in Colorado
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage's chief election news blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.