Obama, quiet on guns before, calls for ‘meaningful action’ to stop shootings

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President Obama fought back tears as he delivered a brief statement this afternoon on the shooting of dozens of schoolchildren in Connecticut today, saying the nation needed to "take meaningful action" to prevent such tragedies.

"We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I react, not as a president, but as anybody else would, as a parent," he said, periodically wiping his eyes.

He said the country has "been through this too many times," referring to shootings in Oregon, Wisconsin, Colorado and Illinois.

"These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children," he said. "And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

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Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration would wait to comment on the politics of reducing gun violence.

"I think it's important, on a day like today, to view this as I know the president, as a father, does ... which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event," Carney said in a live reaction to the unfolding events during his press briefing.

"There is, I am sure, will be rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day," he added.

During his first term, and throughout the campaign, Obama has generally avoided the issue of gun control, even after a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado focused newfound attention on the issue.

When a questioner raised the issue at a presidential debate on Long Island, Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney, talked about the importance of two-parent families, and Obama, in his rebuttals, mostly talked about how he agreed with Romney.

Democrats, once the party of gun control, have assumed a defensive posture on actual gun control legislation since passing some ambitious measures in the 1990s. Those measures were blamed by many people in the party, right or wrongly, for subsequent electoral setbacks that cost the party the House of Representatives.

Obama's remarks suggested this shooting could be different, in terms of "meaningful action." His record as president, on the other hand, suggests that today's emotional remarks should be taken with a grain of salt.