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
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    Comment number 79.

    To Matthew,
    Naturally all children' deaths are tragic! However, your point is narrow-minded. Read this morning's other article re 10 girls dying in Afghanistan. The context is HUGELY different, sadly in Pakistan or Afghanistan, children/ women/civilians remain casualty of wars. Often caused by their own ethnic rebels/ terrorists. Pointing the finger to one dignified man is ludicrous!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 78.

    It's all very well us all deciding, from the UK, that the US should change it's constitution and gun laws, but if they did, what will happen to the 300m guns already in circulation? Opinion in the US is clearly divided, how will they disarm the NRA supporting gun owners? Waco anyone?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 77.

    51.ken1760

    "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."

    I think tougher regulations for the people who enjoy the "sport" of using guns is a small price to pay not to have a school full of dead children, don't you think!?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 76.

    The second Amendment was created in 1791, when handheld weapons were single-shot flintlocks with basic rifling, not automatic weapons that can mow down a crowd with a single clip.

    I think even the Founding Fathers would blanch at the idea of people wandering around with that kind of firepower.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 75.

    We in the UK cannot begin to understand the US 'mentality' about 'their right to bear arms'. The gun lobby brand's anyone trying to bring in gun control as 'trying to curb your rights', worse of being a 'Liberal', a heinous crime akin to being Communist. The gun lobby says, 'teachers should be armed', as if no teacher would ever go mad and shoot children. The genie's out of the bottle no way back

  • rate this
    +81

    Comment number 74.

    The American public is so gullible.

    The powerful gun lobby (funded by suppliers) simply uses the constitution to further their cause.

    Then, of course, there's those who consider themselves 'brave warriors' for killing wildlife with telescopic sighted powerful rifles. They claim it's their 'right' to kill.

    Sums up modern-day America some will say.......

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 73.

    Obama made a good speech. Now these sentiments require action. Change the constitution. It was written for a different era. Why would any sane person want to have a gun. All police should be armed (most UK police have access to arms within minutes - they should prob be all armed thses days).

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    A great speech by a great, compassionate man & a leader taking a huge risk in a historically gun-addled society. My bet is Obama will win this bet, as well. As the GOP recently discovered, they are outnumbered. So are gun-owners in the USA. They don't have the votes.They will have to yield, accept restrictions, fees & constraints on their arsenals. Constitution also enshrined slavery: changes come

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 71.

    The NRA are an anacronism. They belong to the 1950's. The usa will not be invaded any time soon. Banning/restricting guns will save the US health system a fortune and more tragedy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    Such an empty speech by Obama as if this tragedy happened for the first time in the US history. NO... such tragedies happen at least several times per year in the US. Certainly, the easy access to guns makes it easier to go out and kill somebody but the real problem and guilt is on the mind who wants to kill and more on the society cultivating such minds.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    Obviously this whole incident was a tragedy but it's a tragedy of their own making. If American wants to, it can do something to reduce future tragedies - but it won't. Because its the USA, We hear a lot about this from our own media but we hear much less about the children brutally killed in the grubby little conflicts which still take place in parts of Africa.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 68.

    I have a feeling I know what is coming. Not less guns, nooo. More armed guards at schools. The wonderful creation of the gun lobby.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 67.

    It's not the fact that gun ownership is high in America, it's got be be something about Amercian culture itself. Gun ownership in Canada is similar, there are less than 200 deaths each year (I appreciate that no death is acceptable) in America it is over 10,000. It's not the fact Americans own guns it's the owners themselves.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 66.

    It'll happen again with the size of population of the USA whether there are further controls or not. The least they could do would be to make it slightly more difficult though.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    The very fact you want a gun should be the reason to ban you from having one. These vile implements of death serve no purpose but to maim and kill and if you want one then there is something seriously wrong with you. I agree that Lanza is the culprit, not the gun, but when was the last time 20 people were killed by a knife?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 64.

    If I may act as one small voice & that is to ask everyone to stop circulating that bogus statement apparently misappropriated to Morgan Freeman. He is being unwillingly used by NRA members to encourage donations to mental health research instead of pushing for gun controls. If you see that latter statement, from anyone, including Mr Freeman, it is NRA propaganda & not any one else's. Thank you.

  • rate this
    +43

    Comment number 63.

    It's very simple, really. Ban guns. If owning a dangerous firearm was a felony, gun ownership -- legal and otherwise -- would plummet, and nuts wouldn't have them. As an American living abroad, I am both appalled and embarrassed that Americans don't wake up to the very simple fact that more guns mean more crime and more shootings of every nature. The Constitution never envisaged guns for all.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 62.

    As long as America believes it is in the time warp of the Wild West and as long as guns (from rifles to automatic) are allowed to anyone in the name of self defence, it will happen again. Obama might try to seize the moment today but lobbies are powerful and I do not believe he will be able to change things. America needs to find its conscience and change its values with modern times. RIP kids.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 61.

    I can't fathom the American gun culture - guns are fine, but fireworks are very dangerous!?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 60.

    We as a race are too concerned about our rights.
    If felt the same way about our responsibilities, we may have a better world to live in.

 

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