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 879.

    How long do American people want to go to bed at night thinking there are a lot of deeply disturbed people out there who have easy access to guns? Their constitution needs to change. After Dunblane the gun laws in the UK changed. Gun ownership gives individuals the power to implement their own justice and that can never be right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.


    That's right, muddy the waters by throwing out a few examples whilst ignoring the totality of the respective situations.....

    ....even accounting for the fact that the US has a much larger population AND accounting for the fact that they have more serious crime per se the US still has MORE shootings than the UK does.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    Unfortunately in the US, it still won't stop any mentally unstable person from buying a gun from over the counter without any types of background checks and the mass killngs WILL continue unabated................God help you all..

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    @843.Joshua SInclair

    You + Gun = Trouble!

    Any excuse to peddle your out dated religious beliefs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    Gun ban is a bad idea. Each school should have an armed guard with special training for this situation."

    So each school spends a considerable amount of money hiring and retaining a highly trained and armed person "just in case"? What if the guard needs some "performance management" by the head? What if he goes bonkers? When school budgets are cut who goes first? The guard or a teacher?

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    Approximately 80 people a day die from gunshots in the U.S.A., and that figure does not include suicides. School shootings have happened before and, sadly, I have no doubt will happen again. Removing gun ownership from American society will be a very tough battle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    858. doug
    The problem with legislating just to stop massacres is that they are undertaken by nutters, who will be able to get hold of a gun if they so wish regardless of the law"

    No. Many of these are 'spur of the moment' events. Not much planning (if any) was involved.

    Yes, law changes won't totally prevent massacres like this, but they will be reduced significantly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    Just because stricter gun laws will not completely eliminate this type of massacres does not mean that they (the gun laws) are not needed. Think. What law actually eliminate all of the crimes that they are intended to punish against and prevent? Would we repeal laws against stealing because they don't prevent theft? If we make stealing illegal, then only bad people will steal? What logic is that?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    It's easy to get guns ...
    Break into someone's house and steal them.
    Import them from Mexico.
    Buy one, say you lost it "it fell overboard, officer!" then you have a gun but the law records that you don't.

    Easy, huh?

    Scary, huh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    If we do not address the cause of the warped mentalities who choose to use mass killings and attacks and then more often than not kill themselves in the end, they will go on, and on. I did not go to school between 1950 and 1970 in fear for my life with metal detectors at the doors, having to use transparent book bags, and so forth. What is different now? Therein lies the problem to address.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    I don't see an issue with controlled gun ownership, but why the hell does any prviate citizen need an ASSAULT RIFLE? A handgun for defence, sure, a Hunting Rifle for sport, absolutely fine. But a semi-automatic assault rifle is simply indefensible, anyone who supports the continued access of such weapons in private hands frankly has blood on their hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    Ironic really! The shooters mother was killed by the gun she bought to 'defend herself' with. I love the suggestion that teachers should be armed or schools should have armed guards.... you wouldn't even need to smuggle a gun in then; There is one waiting for you in the class room!

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    Obama / US / UK Gov kill children every Day. Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afganistan, Somalia, but neither bbc or the western world gives a dam!

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    Simply banning guns will not stop gun crime anywhere! The UK stats. for firearms offences is still in the thousands anually & that is with some of the most prohibitive gun laws in the world. Like has ben so often said over the years, 'guns don't kill people, it's people who kill people'. I don't really know any answer for stopping it but just a ban on guns isn't going to do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    185. ""semi-automatics" ie sub machineguns"
    I agree with and upvoted your post, but the pro-gun people will be quick to point out that a semi-automatic weapon is nothing like a submachinegun. A submachine gun is by definition fully automatic and is designed almost exclusively to kill people. Semi-automatic weapons fire once per trigger pull, and some are used in small numbers for hunting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    45 Minutes ago
    May be you Brits should let the Yanks figure out how they want to run their country.

    Ok then, no gun/ammunition controls, give everyone guns(including the mentally ill and children) and they can slog it out Hollywood style. The good guys always win don't they Yee-ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 863.

    @ Art16 "It seems that people feel it is OK to stab 22 children in defense of gun control. "

    No-one said it was OK! It was used as an example of how a maniac's ability to effectively kill during a massacre is severely limited by the power of his weapon. If that guy had got a gun as easily as Lanza the death toll would be higher. The US needs to revise is gun control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 862.

    i find Obama's response to be hypocrisy of the highest order. To cry about children being slaughtered as he currently allows US drones to bomb children in numerous Middle Eastern countries is disgusting. America won't change, the NRA have had congress in their back pocket for decades

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    I'm sure that Americans (particularly conservatives) will call for a ban on a particular computer game, TV show, film or music artist, but they will not call for a ban on any particular type of gun.

    They will blame and ban everything else apart from their beloved guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    To those that blame guns I offer this as a thought. If guns did not exist but such an act was done using a knife (and as such fewer were victims) would that make it any less tragic? Guns are tools, their need may be debated but the act of use is the persons and that act could be with a gun, a knife, a hammer or a home made bomb. The single factor that remains the same is the person not the tool.


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