(CBS News) In response to the Colorado mass shooting in which at least 12 people were killed and dozens injured, President Obama on Friday morning cut short his planned campaign stops in Florida and chose instead to lead a moment of silence for the victims.
"There are going to be other days for politics," Mr. Obama said in Ft. Myers, Florida. "This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."
The president thanked the gathered crowd and told them he was grateful for their support.
"I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters we face as a country... the differences between myself and my opponent in this election," he said. "But this morning we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we are united as one American family."
At around 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, a gas mask-wearing gunman opened fire at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado, where the latest Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" was playing. The suspected gunman, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, is in custody.
The president told his supporters that officials are still gathering the facts and that the federal government "stands ready to do whatever's necessary" to bring the responsible party to justice.
"We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people," he said. "We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado in this extremely difficult time."Watch CBS This Morning report on Mr. Obama's initial statement on the shooting.
Mr. Obama called the shooting "senseless" and "beyond reason," adding, "We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings... If there's anything to take away from this tragedy it's the reminder that life is very fragile... Our time here is limited and it is precious."
The president personalized his reflections on the event, noting that his daughters go to the movies.
"What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?" he asked. "Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight. For those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation."
Mr. Obama was initially slated to make two stops in Florida on Friday, where he planned to address Mitt Romney's most recent political attacks against him. However, after learning about the shooting, his campaign canceled an event in Winter Park, Florida and cut the Ft. Myers event short.
After returning to Washington, Mr. Obama immediately gathered a meeting to discuss the shooting with Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler and adviser Valerie Jarrett. Attorney General Eric Holder is out of country and could not attend.
Also after returning, Mr. Obama spoke to Aurora, Colo., Police Chief Dan Oates from the Oval office and told him "that his and Michelle's thoughts and prayers are with the community of Aurora, particularly the local first responders who have performed well under difficult and stressful circumstances," according to a statement from the White House. The statement continued, "The President also told Chief Oates that he should expect the full support of the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies moving forward, including any resources they need to handle the ongoing situation at the suspect's apartment."
The president also Friday afternoon issued a proclamation ordering the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff until sunset, July 25, 2012, to honor the victims of the shooting.
Romney also decided to take a break from politics Friday. Instead of holding the typical campaign event scheduled for the day, Romney used his appearance in Bow, New Hampshire to talk about the shooting.
"I stand before you today not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American," he said. "This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country."
Both First Lady Michelle Obama's and Ann Romney's scheduled events were also canceled for the day.
Additionally, the Obama campaign told CBS News that they have asked Colorado television stations to stop running all campaign ads (not just those attacking Romney) "for the time being." The campaign adds, "It takes time for stations to be able to do this, but we are making every effort."
The Romney campaign also said in an email that they're "pulling all ads in CO until further notice."