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 1059.

    575 Cariboo

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

    Maybe the yanks should stop interfering in the affairs of every other country, and stop trying to extrterritorialse US laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    I don't see Obama crying for the hundreds of pakistani children killed by US predator drones, or a country up in arms about banning these un-manned death machines

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    My personal punishment to the gunman is not to read anything about him.
    He is dead to my eyes ears and soul"

    So you're not reading about him.

    But you are writing about him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    How about this, appeal for the handing in of weapons as a mark of respect to the victims. I have no idea why anyone (non military) requires to have automatic weapons ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    This is an absolutely appalling tragedy and one that should never have been allowed to happen. How many mass murders does it take for the US to change archaic gone laws in the way we did ours after Dunblane? You can't everyone, but surely making them more stringent reduces the chances? Granted we didn't have to deal with the influential lobbyists / quasi- paramilitary NRA

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    "David H
    The problem now, with the recently leaked IPCC AR5 document,
    it is now an embarrassment to a great many who have pushed
    The man made climate change agenda"

    What rubbish. The guy who leaked it doesn't even understand basic concepts such as "thermal equilibrium" so selecting a single phrase he can't understand out of context in a draft document isn't especially significant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    @1029. Jonah: Read this to see what happens in America when the police have a gun amnesty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    Only in America is attack the best form of defence. Gun sales have gone through the roof in the wake of this disaster. This isn’t a cultural issue and although to us Brits it seems idiotic (which it is). I say let them kill each other. Tough love and tragedy is the only way things are going to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    all_about_news wrote:

    "What is your evidence? I, for one, love America and have many American friends. I just can't bear to see six-year-olds being gunned down because of outrageous gun laws, and neither should you"

    I've lived, traveled and studied enough to know what I see. In most cases it is obvious anyway

    You are not American. Our right to bear arms and gun laws are our business, not yours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    Obama's record on protecting children:
    Obama sells guns to drug lords who killed citizens with those guns:
    Baseball bats kill more, why not ban them?
    Queue the hypocrites rabble to remove your right to self-defence. Don't all these shooting happen in "safe gun-free zones". Yeah, thanks prohibitionists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    I wish it were so simple.
    Britain has banned handguns and has a thriving black market in guns.
    Switzerland and Canada have more guns per capita than the US but almost no equivalent issues with gun crime.
    As we have seen over the year, prohibition simply creates black market and criminal profits.
    This is a complex matter that needs reasoned argument and not knee-jerk or impassioned rhetoric

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    Also the need for the constitution to have the right to bear arms was written just after the revolutionary war which was intended to allow for fast mobilizations of militia should the British try and reclaim the territory. Its an old law for an older more violent time and it has to change. Its time for a change to the constitution to protect the innocent from these idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    I am married to an American and usually spend a few weeks in the USA every year with American family and friends. As a British person you a have to realise on certain subjects, such as gun control, it's a totally different mind set in the States. For some people a hand gun is a similar sort or possession to a mobile phone (i.e. they don't leave home without it and feel lost if they do).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    The sad truth is Americans care more about their guns than they do about their children. The American dream is a myth, the "land of the free" in the most heavily incarcerated population in the world. The US dances to the tune of self interested groups, wether its is the gun lobby or the pro-Isreal lobby. The reality is nothing will change after Newton and we'll have this debate again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    The problem in changing the constitution for "right to bear arms" could be that the whole constitution being perceived as out of date and in need of reform. This would then question the fabric of American society and a 'United States'. I don't think any President would want to be named as the one who tore up and destroyed the US constitution, so alas nothing will change with gun laws

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    For all I have posted a gun is a tool just like a hammer or knife, I am not pro-gun, I do however accept they facilitate killing but ultimately it the person using the tool (knife/gun or whatever) that makes the choice & has the intent. Removing guns without addressing the intent is simple dealing witha symptom & not the problem as the potential remains for them to use another weapon/tool.

  • Comment number 1043.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    The gun control initiative in the US sparked by mass school shootings will, in the end, be as much of a failure as the "War on Drugs" touted by US administrations where millions still shoot up, get high, or low, or go to other worlds, as they choose, all the time. Obama even sent automatic weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels. How many people have been killed in that debacle? Warped is as warped does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    Thank you, BBC, for including names and profiles for most of the victims. We should all be remembering the victims, and not devoting any attention to the murderer. Personally, I will refuse to mention his name, and will try to avoid reading about him if I can help it. Don't make him a posthumous celebrity, it just tells people that a crime like this is a fast track route to fame and notoriety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.

    American civilians were not generally armed during the war of independence, that's a myth, gun ownership was a product of their civil war when they killed each other. Owning a Gun is not about protection in the U.S.,or Freedom or Independence. It's about fear, isolation and manipulation. Would gun reduction reduce this awful crime? I think so.


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