- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2012

President Obama will visit Sunday with families of the shooting victims of the movie-theater massacre in the battleground state of Colorado, the White House announced Saturday night.

Mr. Obama will also visit with local officials in Aurora, where a lone gunman killed 12 persons Friday and wounded another 70 during a premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” The president devoted his weekly address Saturday to the tragedy, calling on Americans to engage in “prayer and reflection — for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of the less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities on a daily basis.”

The White House added the trip to Colorado ahead of the president’s planned three-day campaign swing beginning Monday that will take Mr. Obama to Nevada, the West Coast and New Orleans for a mix of fundraising and campaign rallies.

Air Force One will land in Colorado at Buckley Air Force Base, where two servicemen killed in the attack were stationed. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse E. Childress, 29, and Navy Petty Officer Third Class John T. Larimer, 27, both died in the shooting. Another airman from the base was wounded.

On Friday, the president ordered U.S. flags to fly at half-staff through sunset on Wednesday in honor of the shooting victims.

Mr. Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been waging a spirited battle to win Colorado, but both campaigns suspended their campaign activities there Friday in light of the shootings, including pulling their TV advertising.

Mr. Romney echoed the president’s call for national unity, offering condolences for those “whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil in Colorado.”

“The answer is that we can come together,” Mr. Romney said. “We will show our fellow citizens the good heart of the America we know and love.”

Authorities in Colorado said Saturday that the suspect, James Holmes, 24, planned the rampage with “calculation and deliberation.” Police were still working to clear dangerous explosive materials from inside the suspect’s suburban Denver apartment.

Mr. Obama undertook a similar visit to Arizona in January 2011 after a mass shooting that killed six and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat. The president met with families of the victims and gave a speech at the University of Arizona about national unity and healing, although some later criticized the crowd’s boisterous reaction to his appearance.