Newtown shootings: Obama says tragedies must end


Obama: "Are we really prepared to say we're powerless in the face of such carnage?"

President Barack Obama has said the US must do more to protect its children in the wake of Friday's shootings at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Speaking at an inter-faith vigil in Newtown, Mr Obama said he would use the powers of his office to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

He told residents that the nation shared their grief.

Twenty children and six women died in the assault on Sandy Hook school by a lone man who then took his own life.

The first funerals, for two of the child victims, will be held on Monday.

The gunman has been identified by police as Adam Lanza, 20.

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I really get the feeling of a country struggling to find an appropriate response to this home-grown horror”

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He shot dead his mother before driving to the school in her car.

Officials say he was armed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and used a semi-automatic rifle as his main weapon. He was also carrying two handguns, and a shotgun was recovered from a car.

'Can't tolerate this'

"I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation," Mr Obama said, speaking after religious leaders and the state governor.

"You are not alone in your grief. All across this land of ours we have wept with you."

Mr Obama repeated a call for action against gun crime, saying that in coming weeks he would use "whatever powers" his office held "in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this".

At the scene

In a room full of such emotion and sorrow, the president could have just offered support to the town and played the part of healer-in-chief.

Instead, he issued his country with a challenge. "We must change," he said. His voice full of passion, he said that America "can't tolerate" any more gun massacres.

At a restaurant in Sandy Hook, a packed room watched the president on television in complete silence. Afterwards, Seth Greenberg, a high school teacher from a town nearby, said he liked what he had heard and said he was relieved that the president had not been too political.

Seth is a high school teacher who feels conflicted on the issue of gun control. He does not want to see any more gun tragedies and was appalled that the gunman, Adam Lanza, had managed to get his hands on his mother's powerful assault rifle.

But, asked if he supported a toughening of the laws, he paused. "It's not about guns," he said, "but the people that have access to them. The right to have guns is written into the constitution and you take that away, that's like taking away the 10 commandments."

"We can't tolerate this anymore," he said. "These tragedies must end and to end them we must change."

The complex causes of gun crime "can't be an excuse for inaction", he said.

Mr Obama was also meeting victims' families and emergency service workers.

All 20 children who died in the shootings - eight boys and 12 girls - were aged between six and seven, according to an official list of the dead. The school's head teacher, Dawn Hochsprung, was among those killed.

All victims were shot several times, some of them at close range.

Police say the process of releasing the victims' bodies to their families is under way.

Gun control calls

Mr Obama made an appeal for "meaningful action" against gun crime in the US shortly after the attack on Friday.

Sunday saw two senior US Democrats call for stricter gun control.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said his state had an existing ban on assault weapons, but the lack of a similar law at federal level made it difficult to keep them out of the state.

"These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things," he told CNN. "One can only hope that we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose."

Governor Malloy had to break the news to most of the victim's families on Friday.

"You can never be prepared for that - to tell 18 to 20 families that their loved one would not be returning to them that day or in the future," he said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who represents California in the upper house of Congress and is a long-term supporter of stricter gun control, told US TV network NBC: "I'm going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House (of Representatives), a bill to ban assault weapons."

Asked if President Obama would support her measure, she said: "I believe he will."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another strong gun control advocate, has urged President Obama to act.

"We have heard all the rhetoric before," he said. "What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today."

A nationwide ban on certain semi-automatic rifles in the US expired in 2004.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Obama / US / UK Gov kill children every Day. Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afganistan

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    The NRA raves on about the constitutional "Right to keep and bear arms". They have forgotten the first part of that sentence in the Constitution "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State". Militias have for over a century been replaced by the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies for security. Is this slaughter still a small price to pay to keep private guns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Fear culture, poor medical care to treat mental illness, prolific gun ownership. 3 things that contribute to these mass shootings. We may have problems in the UK, we may have violent crime but no where near the level in the US. The simple fact is that if Adam Lanza had been armed with a knife the toll would be much less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The guns did not do this all on their own, the guns did not kill, it was Adam Lanza.

    No amount of legislation can protect society from unbalanced people or fanatics.

    Humans will live with the carnage of unbalanced people & fanatics forever, just as they always have.

    Last USA recorded year death rate is 12,996,.

    Poor & costly USA mental health services result in many unnecessary deaths

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I recently had a conversation with an American in a bar in vegas. He told me that most Americans are idiots & supported this by various means. I as a Brit argued against him. If the US does not change the gun laws soon I will have to agree with him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Wow there are some scarey poeple out there, schools being armed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Absolutely sick to death of the sanctimonious twaddle perpetrated by the NRA - every time somebody is shot, they say the guns arent to blame. Go tell that to the grieving parents of those poor kids - dare to sit among them and say there should be no changes to the law. These people are gun-happy and arent mature enough to be listened to, Go Obama - sort it for once and for all.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Banning guns impacts upon millions of law abiding gun owners in the US that enjoy their sport. This action will be based upon the abuse of a few that use them in this manner. This is what happened in the UK in 1997.
    It is not the gun the is the issue it is the behaviuor of individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    A right to bear arms is written into the constitution but the yanks have toI question why a family in a sleepy backwater have access to legally held assault rifles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    How does the general population of America feel about guns? All we see on the news is gun shows and pro-gun rallies etc. from an outside point of view it looks ridiculous and nonsensical.

    However, we know from experience that governments often make decisions that are against public opinion and the media portray it appropriately. Is the same thing happening here, do Americans really want this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The US ceased to be 'frontier' when it shoved the last of the Native Americans onto reservations, well over 100 years ago. Since then, gun-loving citizens have clung to a Hollywood-inspired frontier fantasy and have lost touch with the world power and model the country is (or should be?). Time these people grew up, took a hard look at themselves and legislated the country out of this deep hole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    "President Obama has touched all our hearts with his words on this tragedy. Let's hope that he can win the battle against the powerful gun lobby."

    That's if he actually starts the battle in the first place with action. In a country like America, I am skeptical he will do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Sadly, unless the US Congress change the gun licensing laws this acts will continue. It would ultimately come down to the Democrats versus the Republicans. And the Republicans are the rich guys that have business interests in gun licensing and gun running. It's gonna be difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Gun controls are unfortunately not the answer. Despite the many great souls in the USA, there's a fundamental issue with their culture. The myth of the "winners" and "losers", of "leaders" and "followers". Forced upon children from a very early age, at the huge expense of kindness. It breeds many broken minds. We don't see 6-7 year-olds randomly shot in Latin America, despite having many guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Do the Americans no longer realise that they are not living in 1776? The makers of the Constitution did not have to worry about assault rifles (for heavens sake!) which can fire in excess of three hundred rounds per minute.If Newtown does not herald strict gun control laws then the Americans have only themselves to blame when ther next massacre occurs,which it surely will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The second amendment was drawn up in the 1770's when you needed guns for hunting and self protection.

    No first world country with a police force, army, supermarkets, and few dangerous wild animals, needs to arm its citizens.

    If 30,000 people died each year from gunshots in the UK it would be a national disgrace.

    Until guns are banned in the USA the mindless killing will go on and on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    As an immigrant in Britian coming from a country where gun culture is common and people use it for self protection, show of strength or as an ornament. I would much prefer to live in Britian where I feel so much more safe in my home and on the streets where even police officers do not carry guns all the time.
    One must remember that BULLET only know one thing and that is "To Kill"

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The gun nuts say “guns don’t kill, people do”.

    Simple answer is to take the guns away from the people.

    How many more have to die?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    This is America!!!! I think they are lost and confused. Life is not only about power and money. Sooner they understand and take measures better will live the coming generation. The question is: Why it's happening in USA repeatedly???


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