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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  • Comment number 939.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    Whilst I'd welcome stricter controls on automatic weapons, I fear that the focus on gun control ignores deeper cultural issues. Some countries with high rates of ownership (ie Switzerland) have low rates of gun crime; the UK has the strictest gun laws on earth but thousands of shootings each year. Is this more about the competitive, devil-take-the-hindmost ethos that links US & UK societies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    In the U.K. there are stringent laws about locking up your gun (if you've got one). You have to have a lockable safe/cabinet attached to the wall. That means you know exactly where your gun is at any time.

    Adam Lanza got hold of the gun because it wan't locked up.

    America should amend its constitution to state that there be no further amendments to the constitution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    May be you Brits should let the Yanks figure out how they want to run their country. Perhaps they like being armed because a dictator would have a hard job subduing the populace."

    You don't perhaps think that a dictator might use weapons and defences that negate your weapons? this 'defense against the state' idea is absoloutely absurd and 150 years out of date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    My personal punishment to the gunman is not to read anything about him"

    No fame should be given to any of these lunatics that do these things. The fewer pictures of them and mentions of their names the better. after all, that infamy is half the reason they do it

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.

    @919 Jethro Troll

    Its bad enough that the sad and pitiable trend of 'trolling' is still in fashion, even worse that people like you feel that it is not limited to tragedies such as this. No-one in their right mind would think arming children a good thing, even some hard-right-wingers are not that demented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    28 Minutes ago
    The right to own guns is deeper than culture. It is an inalienable right. It is what allowed us to successfully defeat the best army in the world-the British.


    Check you history. 11/11/2013 will be the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Cryslers Farm where Brits and Canadians soundly beat many more American troops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    It's too late!
    Guns are everywhere - easily accessible, easily converted, easily used -
    whenever persons are stressed, angry, frustrated, mentally disturbed.
    The Gun Lobby is too strong.
    It's too late!
    What will you do, Obama? What can you do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    As a pragmatic stop-gap, why not make the gun manufacturers vicariously liable for the civil damages arising from their products? They might avoid damages if they can show the sale was "responsible". In turn, their buyer is liable and so on through the chain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    I find it disturbing that the school even had practice drills for such an event. Obviously good that they did, but is this really an acceptable cost for the 'right to bear arms'? And as for teachers wearing sidearms! Even if they did, what good would they be against a competent gunman clad in body armour and using an assault rifle? Almost certainly cause accidental deaths. Stupid, stupid NRA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    919. Jethro Tull

    Seriously are you serious ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    "That's because they're killing would-be Jihadists in those countries in carefully targeted attacks and raids"

    You need to get out more. You really believe that bombs dropped from drones by remote control are only hitting terrorists?

    That, incidentally, is why people all over the world feel a right to comment on this issue...Americans export their disregard of human life everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

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

    But what if he gets shot?

    They need at least a platoon of guards, with a couple of Apache helicopters in the playground, landmines around the perimeter and a lookout tower on each corner with machine guns and rocket launchers

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    The right to own guns is deeper than culture. It is an inalienable right. It is what allowed us to successfully defeat the best army in the world-the British. "

    - but only with the help of the (professional) French and Spanish armies and navies. And in any case, that's over 200 hundred years ago: time to bring your laws into the 21st century, perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 925.

    Nothing in the US constitution that says people have the right to ammunition.... why not restrict that?

    Would be a roundabout way to do it, but it would allow people to have guns and not much to do with them.

    Yeah I know people would just make their own, but it is a thought.. the average joe wouldn't be able to do so, so the spur of the moment stuff might be curtailed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 924.

    Clearly those who are yet lucky to be alive would not wait to be shot at before a tough gun control law is introduced! Whatever the mundane arguement in support of 'easy access to guns', the fact remains that if guns are readily available, Guns will readily be used. I just hope we will not be debating this issue of whether or not to have a stricter gun control again after another tragedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    I'm surprised the NRA have stayed silent on this so far and have taken their Facebook page offline. I thought they would have arrived in town and had a big pro-gun rally with thousands of supporters and celebrity speakers by now.

    Somebody's got to call Obama to account and stand up for the millions of responsible American gun owners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    its amazing how indifferent people are in the western world to the suffering of the third world in countries like afghanistan and pakistan which your taxes pay for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    + Nurseries, cinemas, libraries, gyms, swimming pools, old peoples homes, hospitals... Just issue everybody an AK47 with their birth certificate..."

    Shops too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    The world is awash with assault weapons, automatic or not. Since WW2 they have been produced in vast quantities and have almost if not now become a commodity in trade. They have been used as the food for conflicts everywhere being supplied by "one side or the other". You can ban them, but if people want them, they will continue to get them. They ban drugs, but what good has that done?


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