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 199.

    So, you hunt using a semi-automatic assault weapon do you? If hunting for food is the reason to keep guns, then there must be a lot of deer, bison and wild boar roaming the streets of NYC.

  • Comment number 198.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Fully understand the responses so far. However these repeated shootings say more about mental health than they do about gun ownership.So I would agree that a change in culture is long overdue.

    Police forces are reactive so cannot be depended upon for protection, whether in the US or anywhere else, as an offence must already have taken place. Personal protection rests with the individual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    It's heartbreaking that this happens time and time again.
    The fact that the restrictions on guns vary from state to state and checks on who can legally own guns are scant at best means there won't be and end to these terrible tradegies.
    Ban semi-automatic guns...who EVER needs to be carrying this sort of weapon & for all guns....LOCK THEM AWAY

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    In the UK, a woman has to endure a rape, then look to the Police to catch him. In the US, the would be rapist is dead. Who are the animals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Until Americans love their children and grandchildren more than they like their guns nothing will change.

    It takes a special sort of idiot to argue for the right to bear arms after this appalling tragedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Comparing gun laws and use in the US to the UK is not particularly meaningful - we have never had a widespread "right to bear arms".

    I agree that "guns do not kill people, people kill people", but there is an argument for making guns less available for people to use.

    However, to change the American Constitution will be a huge deal, and will not stop people using illegal guns to kill anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Banning guns impacts upon millions of law abiding gun owners in the US that enjoy their sport.
    You don't need an Assault rifle to go Hunting.

    You don't need 12 Guns and Thousands of rounds of ammunition in a Home for Home defence.

    You don't need to keep guns in your home or glove compartment in your vehicle if you want to shoot on a range.

    I am an ex Met Police Authorised Shot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    I'm reading a lot of comments pro and anti guns. This is a valid argument but not for today. today we should be concentrating on the snuffing out of 28 lives, most of them little children who went to school and will not be coming home. Spend a few moments grieving for them and their parents who must be in unimaginal pain. Give your kids an extra hug today people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Presumably nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, SAM's, bazookas, suicide vests, letter bombs, tanks and cluster bombs don't kill people so why not make them freely available?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    @133 - //26 victims is horrendously attrocious, but what of 4267 dead victims of Londons polution\\

    Regardless of the accuracy of your pollution deaths figure, try 100,000 people shot each year in America, not just 26 victims!

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    8 Minutes ago
    56. spam spam spam spam

    In China, over past years, they have more & more KNIFE attacks on schoolchildren IN SCHOOLS.

    FACT- Polution is responsible for MORE deaths in UK, than TOTAL murder rate in USA - so, whos pulling what trigger.

    Every time you push a key on your keyboard, you are relatively pushing the polution DEATH trigger, passive state murder is a fact

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Forgive me for being cynical, but if America did not change the gun laws after Columbine or Virginia Tech, what would foce things to change now? It's ironic that the right to bear arms is considered a right in America whereas healthcare is a privelage. Go figure..

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    If you got a gun pointed to your head, I wonder if you'd hope for a gun or a better gun control law. If the teachers had guns, I wonder if they'd refuse to use them based on "principle".
    Criminals will always have guns. So I can't see why amercican citizens can't arm themselves.
    Also, no guns = no gun crime? Em, same way as no drugs = no drug crime? Who are you kidding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    This is but the latest in a series of appalling massacres conducted using "semi-automatics" ie sub machineguns, and any right minded person will wish Obama well in introducing an effective nationwide ban on such weapons. Normally, legislating in the aftermath of tragedy risks bad law, but bad law already exists in the US, now is precisely the time to act to defend the defenceless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Killing by explosion should be the death penalty anywhere.
    And being found in public whith a gun should be life in prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Hours after this unspeakable tragedy, the gun lobby has closed ranks. NO COMPROMISE. This individual found it too easy to lay hands on military style weapons. The fundamentalists preach that he had a constitutional right. When the US preaches to fundamentalist elements in Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan, they can justifiably reply, 'Put your own house in order first'.

  • Comment number 182.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I agree that gun laws in the US are far too lenient, however look at our strict gun laws (some of the harshest in the world).
    Unfortunately, regardless of the weapon used, the Dunblane, Hungerford, Cumbria and Manchester (gun and grenade) attacks, still show that no matter how you impact firearms law, people will find a way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I bet the majority of U.S. gun lobbly supporters also vote Republican?

    Pretend cowboys and other strange men who are unable to grow up?


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