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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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.


More on This Story

US gun debate


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1039.

    @976 Simon,

    That is a very simplistic way to view it. Most of the people who feel they need guns do not feel that way "just because". No matter what the law says, millions of guns are already in circulation and, like drugs, aren't going away. People simply do not feel comfortable with the fact that only criminals would have guns - that's why this issue is so difficult to address.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1038.

    @1012.balancedviewsThese are 19th century views that have no place in any country that cherishes democracy. Time to move on.
    ...agree America can't keep banging on a about the constitution which was written over 200 years ago, to be a progressive nation the constitution needs to adapt to their present situation as it did when it was first written.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    #1002 - ".Armed citizens means less crime."
    With 5x population of UK and 80 (EIGHTY)x gun homicides, 20x total murders and 30x police officers killed, I fail to see how this is "less" crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    Becktoid doesn't understand simple laws of cause and effect.....
    People kill people.
    Massacres happen because people cause them.
    Massacres are usually the result of mass killing weapons like guns.
    Unrestricted access to guns makes massacres easier.
    Foolish foolish Becktoid......
    @1002 Less per capita crime in the UK.... Way less guns!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    Gun owners all seem to think that they are better than average in using their gun. They assume that because they are armed it will be simple for them to just pop the bad guy and save everyone. An afternoon of paintball should disabuse them of such delusions.

    Finally, to paraphrase Prince Phillip, I'd sooner be 20ft away from a maniac armed with a knife than a maniac wielding an assualt rifle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    1015.orientrich "someone just needs to reword the constitution so it says "right to bare arms" instead of "right to bear arms"

    Agreed! Unfortunately given his views on the issue I don't think Obama would be too keen on the other meaning of 'right to bare arms' either :o(

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.


    I've noticed that Switzerland has been mentioned several times. The difference between U.S & Switzerland is education!
    It would take many generations to educate the yanks before they'd accept NOT keeping guns.... there really is no excuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    @ 007. kris

    I say we should arm everyone with knives in Britain. Surely, that will solve all our problems.


    I hope you are trying to be sarcastic.... however a knife is a very different thing from a gun - yes it can be used as a lethal weapon - but it is also an indispensable tool that each and every one of us uses every day. Guns have but one use - to kill, nothing else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    Seems that some would like every American to walk around armed. Now, where have I seen that before? Oh right! Damascus!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    Shudder to think what that school must have looked like after this tragedy.

    I pity america, I really do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    Blaaah..People kill people nonsense. We all know this. People with assault rifles kill more people at a faster rate. Look at why people are killing people. Look at why it was easy for this family to obtain dangerous weapons which belong on a battlefield.

    Two things need to be tackled here. Everyone who owns a gun in the US, needs to be screened plus the US needs to issue a gun amnesty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    I have read through much of this debate and I am now clear that new gun controls are absolutely necessary.

    Every US citizen over 16 should be required to carry at all times, as a minimum, 2 handguns and an assault rifle with 50 rounds ammunition for each. Every visitor to the country should be required to hire same at the border. Then everyone will be much safer.

    It's so obvious - Hmmmmm!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    Yes, it is possible that stricter gun control will create a black market and yes, somebody will always find a way around that control. But, the event in Newtown is another of a series of events. To do nothing about it is not an option. How can we look into the eyes of the victims' parents and not be compelled to do something to inhibit such an event reoccuring?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    #1001 I AM THE CHOSEN ONE - talking of Mexico.

    When are Americans going to learn that US overly liberal gun laws are destroying not just their own people but the people around them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    Some people say its not guns that kill people its those welding them and use this as an excuse to keep guns legal in the USA. That boy would not have been able to use those guns if they weren't there. I wish Obama the best of British luck in trying to impose gun controls and my hart goes out to the families of all those who have died by them. I don't see anything changing though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    One reads posts, or hears from politicians, on topics like this every day. The only common factor in 99% of the comments is their appalling hypocracy concerning human life and well being in general.
    Think about all of the mass killings not the subject of 5 day comment, and vows of change and remorse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    Here are some basic changes that make sense.
    (1) Civilians should only be allowed to have a handgun or a manual loaded rifle for farmers and hunters.
    (2) Guns should only be sold in licensed gun shops, not at supermarkets or at banks etc and there should be far less gun shops.
    (3) Background checks must be always made on gun buyers.
    (4) Guns must be kept in locked boxes and the keys hidden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    On this very tragic moment in American history, it would have been befitting of the US President to have said that murder of all children and civilians must be stopped, every where in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    The way the guy was talking about guns and criminals and the UK, too, would have you think that everyone here cowers helpless in their homes against endless hoardes of criminals with guns.

    Anyway, if you are a 'responsible' gun owner, what do you have to fear from tighter gun restrictions? Surely the slightly increased inconvenience is worth it, if there's even a chance of saving lives?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    People should have the right to own and use firearms. This should not be curtailed.
    However the ability to buy a handgun, with minimal background checks, keep it in your bedside cabinet, and pop down to walmart and buy some ammunition, is plainly ridiculous.
    The UK firearms laws are a little to prohibitive, but rather that, than a US style free for all.


Page 5 of 56


More US & Canada stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.