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US presidential race pauses after deadly shooting

US presidential race pauses after deadly Colorado shooting By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The deadly shooting spree in Colorado consumed the U.S. presidential campaign Friday, sidetracking a bitter political contest with a tragedy that at least temporarily brought the candidates together in common purpose.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney altered their campaign schedules to address the killings. Both issued statements of condolences, calling for prayer and unity in the aftermath of the overnight bloodshed at a suburban Denver movie theater.

In Florida for a campaign swing, Obama asked for a moment of silence and focused his shortened remarks exclusively on the tragedy. The president said the shooting was a reminder that life is fragile, and added that the event "reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family."

He said Friday should be devoted to prayer and reflection. He then canceled a later appearance and was returning to Washington ahead of schedule.

The issue of gun control is deeply felt in the United States, but had not really surfaced in any significant way during the presidential campaign.

Republicans have accused Obama of trying to erode gun owners' rights, yet despite promising to limit access to firearms during the 2008 campaign the president has said and done little about guns since he was elected, deeply disappointing gun-control groups. In its most recent assessment, in 2010, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence flunked on Obama on all seven issues it deemed important.

Gun rights groups are a powerful lobby in the U.S. where to many people, especially in the more conservative and rural parts of the country, easy access to guns is a way of life. Reasons for that go as far back as the western frontier culture of the 19th century and before the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, alongside such basic rights as free speech and freedom of religion.

Friday's tragic events in Colorado cast gloom over the country and stopped the political sniping of recent days as Obama and Romney both moved to pull down negative advertising.

Romney, too, was scheduled to comment on the shooting during his own campaign appearance in New Hampshire and canceled some media interviews.

Obama was notified about the incident in Colorado early Friday by his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. The White House said there was no apparent connection to terrorism.

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