The NRA breaks its silence after Sandy Hook, as the political ground shifts

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The National Rifle Association has issued its first statement since the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School reignited a national debate over gun control and put the gun lobby on the defensive.

The statement reads:

The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

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The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.

Also, the N.R.A's Facebook page is active again.

The N.R.A. has dominated the debate over gun regulation in recent years, after much of the national Democratic Party, including gun-control stalwarts like Senator Chuck Schumer, essentially gave up on the issue as a lost cause.

Though the political pattern after previous mass shootings has been for professions of grief and promises of action to be followed by reversion to the norm, the shocking nature of the murder of 20 schoolchildren has produced what Schumer called a political "tipping point."

In the days since the shooting, President Obama, who avoided gun issues during the campaign, promised "meaningful action," and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has designs on building a lobbying counterweight to the N.R.A. when he leaves office, hinted at a major ramp-up of his spending to support pro-gun-control candidates for federal office.