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 1099.

    i believe the first reaction is to ban gunsin the us .the goverment will have to put 250,000 people in prison for illegal gun posession.punish everyone
    for the actions of a few.the fix for now is to place police officers at every school in the us just as china in the states we have plenty of police they are everyware except where needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    @Serendipo "Comments about armed citizens meaning less crime is groundless" Wrong armed citizens have and will prevent crime.The mall shooter in the US who killed 2 was confronted by a citizen who had a concealed weapon and promptly shot himself.That man saved many lives,but of course it was not mentioned on national news.Numerous examples on youtube.And you cannot compare the UK and the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    Most of you so-called "Europeans"criticizing America are anti-American and are simply using this crime to express your hate and jealousy.
    I'd be curious to know what it would be like to meet you in person and you percieved me as one of the peope you describe above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    I see all the guardian readers have been on here today having a go at all people that use guns. We're not all nutters you know and most of us support heavily regulated access and use as well as grieve for the families involved. "Big Guns" should be only used in well regulated and controlled places with seriously restricted access to ammo. Direct your anger at politicians not responsible gun owners

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    A car dealership in the US had an offer, free AK47 with any car bought, how ridiculous is that!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    One option would be to use the tax system in attempt to control the gun trade without the need for diffiult or impossible constitutional legislation. For example 1000 dollar tax on each firearm with say a 10 dollar tax perround of ammunition. many gun dealerships would then have to close on economic grounds due to the drop off in trade effectively restricting the supply of a "social evil"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    I lived in the US for 3+ years, I doubt there will be a ban, there maybe calls for more stringent vetting/ownership/training and possibly alignment across the various state laws, quite a variation by State.

    Remember President Obama needs support from the Rebublicans
    if he is to avoid/avert further fiscal issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.


    The american dream is a myth, and as soon as most Americans understand that they are collectivly one of the most deluded cuntries on earth then they will be able to see a little more clearly.
    And you care about freedom, what freedom to kill? what about the right for a child to go to school without getting shot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.


    AllenT2, correct me if I am wrong but you mention of "freedom" incompasses the very things freedoms of action the others speak of - free to go unharmed to watch a film, to be safe etc? Perhaps I am wrong but the 3 of you speak of the same things & it is just how it is achieved is in debate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    scirop wrote:

    "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."

    So? Tell her to mind her own business just as Americans tell you to mind your business. Poor argument.

    Also, America doesn't exist for the approval of you or the "world."

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.


    Strange, I thought the American dream was to :

    "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty"

    Sadly, Common Defence seems to be the only one some people actually care about enforcing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    497. Paul
    472. Peter A
    Gun control would not have helped Newtown-very little can stop disturbed determined people."

    Paul, 487 -No passable law in the foreseeable future will remove all the existing, countless guns and prevent another Newtown - future killers will still find a way to get one-identify the troubled people in advance (and make it illegal to buy/own ammo).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    @1054. Trout Mask Replica

    What do you think of these?
    Obama's record on protecting children (150+ killed):
    Obama sells guns to drug lords who killed US citizens with those guns:

    Do you think he's qualified to protect children or regulate guns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    Just more proof that the sick laws in US including the daeth penalty do not work, the war on drugs, terror, etc, the US, Europe UK need to take stock, our system is failing us, it need a radical change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    The killing of elementary school children or any incident alike that took place recently, are the work of morally corrupt/evil minds of youngsters. Assuming the deterioration of moral behavior and mental illness are known to the parent/s well before these incidents happen, they should come out and seek help on mental illness or from the law enforcement before such the incidents take place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    In March, after a loony bunch of American marines descended on a Afghan village at mid-night and shot dead men, women and children -- all sleeping in their poor houses after a day’s of hard work, there was no outrage in America, no candle-light vigils, no flowers and no trauma.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    @947 Yes people in cars do kill especially those who drink drive. But in the UK there are thousands of people each year who lose their licenses, their cars, their jobs, get criminal records as well as jail time after random checks for drunk drivers by the police. So far the Christmas i have been stopped twice at checkpoints. We can do something about drink drivers. now to do something about guns

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    More changes that make sense.
    (5) Donations and gifts from gun companies to politicians must be banned.
    (6) Advertising for guns and bullets must only be accessible to people over the age of 18.
    (7) All schools etc unfortunately should have metal detectors and must check all students and teachers entering and leaving the grounds possibly.
    (8) Violent shooting games need to be for over 18 only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    @ 1077

    You care more about your freedom than anything else? I care more about my child than anybody or anything. The American dream? Wake up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    Shame you dont care about kids right to go to school free from fear of being shot by a mad man with his mothers legally owned guns. Shame you dont care about the right to go to the cinema without getting shot.

    You can keep your "American dream" thanks.


Page 2 of 56


More US & Canada stories



BBC © 2014 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.