There is a tendency to mumble familiar phrases when we are faced with an incomprehensible event like the mass murders in Newtown, Conn.

One that should be retired permanently is the bromide, “This is not the time to discuss changes to gun laws that could have prevented or diminished this tragedy.”

President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney, however, rolled out that dodge Friday when briefing the national press: “There (will be) I’m sure … a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”

But a day sometime in the future for the “usual Washington policy debates” is not what’s called for. A mass killing that took the lives of 20 innocent children and eight adults for no apparent reason requires a serious discussion about the prevalence of weapons capable of this kind of carnage, and the ability of anyone to get hold of them.

This is the seventh mass shooting this year. On July 20, 12 people were killed when a man opened fire at a movie theater audience in Aurora, Colo. In August, a gunman killed five men and one woman at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before taking his own life. Each time, pleas were made not to politicize the tragedy and to leave talk about reforming gun laws to another time.

Even though these shootings came during the height of a presidential campaign, neither party wanted to touch the politically volatile issue of gun control, even if the discussion was limited to only high-capacity magazines or assault-style rifles that make mass murder easy.

These issues have nothing to do with responsible gun ownership, as it exists in Maine and other places, and have nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment, which is not a guarantee that anyone can have any gun at any time for any reason.

Sensible laws that would let fewer guns fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them can’t be developed in the current political environment.

President Obama struck the right tone with his remarks Friday: “We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action, regardless of the politics.”

He’s right, and now is the time.