(CNN) – In an address to police officers Monday, Vice President Joe Biden focused almost exclusively on the heroism displayed in the aftermath of last week's deadly shooting in Colorado, saying law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens who rushed to help victims of the massacre "define who we are as a nation."
"They make us proud of our country, and maybe more important at this moment, they make us confident that this country is made of that sterner stuff and there is reason to be hopeful and confident," Biden told the National Association of Police Organizations, meeting in Manalapan, Florida.
Biden avoided any mention of politics or policy, saying he originally intended to discuss those topics but that events on Friday made him reconsider. He praised the group, saying they understood what citizens of Aurora, Colorado were dealing with because they had been in similar situations.
"There's no group of Americans who understand, who have internalized, who have had to deal with every day of their life the national tragedy that we're coping with now more than all of you," Biden told the police officers.
Quoting William Butler Yeats, Biden laid out the different emotions he saw coming from Americans: "Pray we will, sing we must, and yet we weep."
"We must sing of the courage and the heroism that was on display late Thursday night," Biden continued, retelling several anecdotes from the scene in the Aurora auditorium of ordinary movie-goers helping save lives following the rampage.
Biden said the entire nation was indebted to police officers like the ones assembled.
"God only knows what makes you tick, but thank God you tick the way you do," Biden said. "Thank God there are people like you, in this moment of grief the entire nation is reminded of how grateful we are for what you do. And I truly believe, notwithstanding all of the political chatter we will hear, I truly believe the vast majority of the American people are as committed as I am to not letting you down."
Biden's remarks come one day after the White House said Obama was not looking to advance at any new gun control regulations in light of Friday's shooting.
Speaking aboard Air Force One as the president flew to meet with families of those killed in Aurora, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president felt current laws, if enforced, were adequate.
"The president's view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that's his focus right now," Carney said, adding it was too early to determine how the issue would play in the election.
Police in Colorado say Holmes set off two gas-emitting devices before spraying the theater in Aurora, Colorado, with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns that police recovered.
Holmes had bought the guns legally at stores in the Denver area over the past two months, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said Friday. More than 6,000 rounds of ammunition were also purchased online, according to the police chief.
The question of tighter restrictions on owning guns has been largely ignored in this year's presidential campaign, and Democrats, who in the 1990s were vocal in pushing for tighter gun laws, rarely address the issue today.
That silence, however, was sharply criticized by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Sunday that President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had a responsibility to lay out a strategy for combating gun violence in America.
Both candidates, Bloomberg said, had records on restricting access to assault weapons. The three-term New York City mayor, who's an independent, pointed to an assault weapon ban Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts and a 2008 campaign promise from Obama to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.
"The governor has, apparently, changed his views, and the president has spent the last three years trying to avoid the issue, or if he's facing it, I don't know anybody that's seen him face it. And it's time for both of them to be held accountable," Bloomberg, long an advocate for tighter access to guns, said on CBS.
"Leadership is leading from the front, not doing a survey, finding out what the people want and then doing it. What do they stand for, and why aren't they standing up?" Bloomberg asked.