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
    +8

    Comment number 179.

    I find it completely incomprehensible that Americans are so wedded to their 'right to carry arms' that they cannot see how minimally controlled gun ownership fuels gun crime. The best memorial to these victims would be that US at last comes to grip with this issue.

    Looking more broadly at protecting children, US must ratify UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Only US and Somalia have not!)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 178.

    17.timetoponder
    They must be a very sad and unhappy society if their need for guns is more important than the lives of innocent children"

    I get what youre saying, but i think you misunderstand the american mindset - they believe having guns will help them protect their families ie their kids. Yes theres a disconnect but its too easy for us to judge their 'silly laws'

  • Comment number 177.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 176.

    To put into context: There are restrictions on gun ownership in the USA. A person is denied firearms if they've previous been convicted for armed crime, etc.

    A ban on buying and owning assault rifles expired only a few years ago.

    For those saying that the guns account for the higher crime rate: Canada has higher gun ownership than the USA, and lower crime figures.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 175.

    I went to America on business a couple of months ago and was given a pool car to use by work. I was told that if I had any issues, there was a gun in the glove box, and as long as it was returned fully loaded they didn't mind what I did. I wasn't in a particularly bad area and the company I work for isn't exactly a target for malicious activity. I still feel sick at the flippant gun culture.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 174.

    Americans know what the answer to gun crime is. They're just too ignorant, selfish and stupid to implement it.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 173.

    America - the sickest Nation on earth.

    Time and time again mass shootings occur yet the right wing gun-tooters demand the right to have weapons and see the killing of children as a price worth paying.

    Totally sick but on the other hand, there are far too many guns in American society that any change will take decades before a reduction in frequency of these mass killings is noticed.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 172.

    They repealed the 18th amendment - surely they can repeal the second? Just as long as Congress doesn't try to strike a deal to repeal the fisrt at the same time...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 171.

    Bill of Rights, 2nd amendment.
    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"
    Like it or not, you have to find a way round that.
    For example, possession is legal but wgat about banning sale?
    What about limiting it to "well regulated militia"?
    Over to the Supreme Court

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 170.

    Isn't the argument that you need to own a gun to be safe bound to lead to an arms race? After all, to be really safe you surely need to own a more powerful weapon than your neighbor (sic).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 169.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 168.

    I do believe that the biggest school killing in the US, that of Bath, was not with guns but with explosives.

    Also, at the same time as this one was occurring in the US, a similar one was happening in China ... with knifes.

    More in general, everytime a politicians says "think of the children", it's usually some kind of excuse to implement some broad measure that reinforces the power of the state.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 167.

    What an intense emotional attachment Americans must have to the guns in their homes that prevents them from throwing them all in the nearest river. It is a collective insanity.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 166.

    "Why would any sane person want to have a gun."
    There are legitimate reasons. However, 'just because I want them & a 200 year old bit of paper says we can, so we can over-throw our government' isn't one of them. There's certainly no really legitimate reason for civilians 'needing' high-capacity auto-loading rifles: Something that can put bullets through walls isn't even viable for home defence.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 165.

    I personally see no need for anybody to have these assault weapons, or hand guns in their house or on their person. No-one except the police should have guns period. If you want to shoot a gun, go to a controlled gun club. You can't legislate for people.....people will do what they have always done....be stupid.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 164.

    @3

    Great post.

    So for these children to be called home to Heaven they have to be murdered!

    Absolutely moronic statement from Obama!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 163.

    I get guns are part of American culture. I get that it is a big country and many Americans like to shoot various animals in their spare time.

    What I don't get is why the two above cultural issues should mean that the average American is able to buy semi-automatic / automatic weapons which are designed to kill in a war zone.

    Keep weapons fit for purpose and ban the rest.

  • rate this
    -30

    Comment number 162.

    Comment #65 keeleboy.
    The loss of life and the terror the victims must have felt is horrible. BUT
    I have a legally owned gun and there is nothing wrong with me. If I didn't have one my family wouldn't have eaten this weekend without a food parcel from a charity. Stop sullying all gun owners with your ridiculous comments, people kill people not tools, is breeding a vile implement of death?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 161.

    I hope the pro gun lobby finally start to move their attitude following this horrific incident.

    The weapon used is modern battlefield rifle designed, very effectively, to be able to kill large numbers of people quickly. The fact it is a 'civilian' version without automatic fire is a moot point.

    Who would not forgo having such weapons in society if it made massacres like this less likely?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 160.

    Some parties in charge seem to miss the point here: There will be gun crimes as long as people are allowed to carry firearms and children will continue to pay for this. Firearms = a license to kill.

 

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