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 1079.

    Comments about armed citizens meaning less crime is groundless; by this measure the UK should be a criminal paradise its not. By extension are you saying that if the teachers had been armed (one Republican Senator has said this) this tragedy would not have occurred? Surely if teachers in an elementary school need to be armed or have an armed guard then there is something wrong with that society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    1019. Bastiat

    You keep doing it. You find anecdotal evidence that supports your views and claims it's compelling evidence whilst at the same time ignoring the vast amount of counter evidence and statistics that don't agree with you. According to you anarchic-libertarianism is the answer and all counter evidence can be discounted or actually proves it is correct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    Mark wrote:

    "The sad truth is Americans care more about their guns than they do about their children."

    No, we care more about freedom.

    "The American dream is a myth, the "land of the free" in the most heavily incarcerated”

    Another typical BBC "European" reader showing how little he knows about America. I don't think you would even begin to understand the concept of the American dream.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    @1053. This is sad indeed and stems from a moral mentality which needs to be thwarted. I know it sounds bad, but I think now would be the best time to play on these people conscious just so they understand the brutality, these weapons can cause.

    I read 100 firearms were handed in. That's 100 firearms less on the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    @1040, Tim Reason: "Would gun reduction reduce this awful crime? I think so"

    That is the problem, though. How much gun reduction can you realistically achieve when there are over 200 million guns in circulation in the third largest country in the world both in terms of land mass and population size? People will always have access to guns, just as they do with drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    Nothing will change unless people WANT it to change.

    As long as lobbying and Corporate interests have such massive influence in the American governmental system, the tide of information and counter-information will leave everything far too blurred to make decisions that account for ALL Americans, rather than just the loudest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    To all Yanks saying we should keep our opinions 2 ourselves.

    Last week Hilary Clinton was in Belfast, sticking her nose into our business. She said the recent protests were ruining our image world wide.

    Not one person killed in these protests.
    Maybe she should worry about her own countries Global Image.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    @1028.tony paceEvery visitor to the country should be required to hire same at the border. Then everyone will be much safer.
    hey Tony don't give them ideas

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    The US laws won't change.

    Never mind America, we'll see you next time a nutter guns down innocent people with legally acquired firearms (as they almost always are). Probably won't be long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    In the UK handguns are scarce enough that it's been known for rival gangs to have rented the same weapon at different times.
    The Swiss figures are also skewed by their national service model and the number who choose to purchase their state issued weapon on completion. Still the ammunition issued for it is sealed and periodically inspected to ensure it hasn't been opened.

  • Comment number 1069.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    As a fellow commentator wrote"You people are so naive it is frightening".
    The banning of guns in the US would see the crime rate rocket.Many more police would lose their lives fighting the crime pandemic,along with burglary victims and shop owners.More children nationwide annually would lose their lives as a result of a gun ban.A new law tightening gun storage procedures is the sensible step.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    It is upsetting that in recent days we have seen 28 children killed in Gaza,23 in Maaret al-Numan, Syria and a further 22 school children attacked in Henan province, China yet these other reports barely made the headlines. It is not just the events that are upsetting but the OTT media saturation seemingly based on the fact that this latest atrocity happened in the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    1018.Trout Mask Replica "government being a servant of the people that the US and UK put in place well over 200 years ago".
    You really think that the last Labour Govt, who would have had us all barocoded, microchipped, databased and surveilled from birth thought they 'served' us? Ask this family if they though the state were 'serving' them:

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    Whenever I have debated this with Americans before and I always come across the same stumbling block. Most Americans will not accept or believe that it is very rare for a criminal to use a gun to commit a crime in the UK and is of low concern. This makes me think the irrational attitude of 'we are all safe if we carry guns' stems from a real insecurity about defencelessness and fear of change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    Can you imagine if the Columbine, The Dark Knight and now the Connecticut gun massacres were all done by a black gunman what the media would be saying! And yet, although the above crimes have been committed by Caucasian men, there is no mention about "Gun crime in the white community"" "Absent fathers in white families" "The influence of
    Heavy metal or Rock music"" etc,etc,etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    I blame the Western more than I do the video game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    Any politician agreeing to gun control would be committing career suicide. Maybe Obama has a chance since he doesn't have to worry about winning another term but he has to get people to back him. However, with the NRA having such a strong presence on Capitol Hill I doubt it. As Charlton Heston once said "you can take my gun...out of my cold dead hands..." And I'm afraid that's what it might take.

  • Comment number 1061.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    I agree with othewr comments suggesting that the US needs to take a long hard look at itself.
    To Add to that, I think we all do.................
    I can't help feeling though that this will be used as another way to over protect, why the hell do americans need firearms on such a mass personal level, it seems they are all afraid of eachother, no wonder they are scared of the outside world so much?


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