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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US gun debate

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1119.

    Something must be done about gun laws in the US - either gun laws tightened or guns abolished. HOWEVER, I also believe the media has a large part to play. If the newspapers and news shows were to STOP showing full sized pictures of the murderers' faces and STOP giving such wide exposure to the stories or at least to the murderers then we may well see a decrease in such atrocities.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1118.

    Surely one easy and major step would be to stop naming the gunmen. If they thrive on thought of publicity, of being famous then deny them that. Name the victims but don't name the perpetrator and publicise this decision.
    The recent news bulletins have all mentioned the gunman's name but have used generic terms for the victims.
    It is not a solution but if it makes a difference, why not?

  • Comment number 1117.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1116.

    @ 1111. AllenT2

    Unfortunately, it is you that is coming across as arrogant and foolish.

    For those of us that might not be able describe the American dream as you see it, why not divulge its meaning? I'm being serious, tell us.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1115.

    They need to stop giving guns out left, right and centre. Giving untrained people guns results in lives being shattered. We hear about the people going to investigate suspected burglaries in their own house and end up shooting family members, or hear about a child that finds his fathers gun... guns should only be given out under license to people like farmers not Tom, Dick and Harry.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1114.

    @1077.AllenT2

    Please can you post a single cogent argument as to why owning a semi-automatic assault rifle is a non negotiable requirement to anyones ability to live in freedom anywhere on the North American continent? Because as an American loving Brit I really don't understand where you are coming from.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1113.

    I like the way that this news story has a web address:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20750666

    ...which ends in 666.

    Guns are EVIL.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1112.

    I feel deep sorrow to hear of such a sudden passing of children in their school with the Crazy boy.The government of USA should aware and keep its people form such incidents.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1111.

    Pdibbs wrote:

    "@1077Strange, 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""

    That's not the American Dream genius. Stop foolishly and arrogantly acting like you know more about America than Americans and you'll look less foolish.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1110.

    "as soon as most Americans understand that they are collectivly one of the most deluded cuntries"

    Why? Because you said so? Please. In your haste to criticize America, it is you who appears to be blind to the fact that the rest of the world, especially and including your own country, have their own major issues. You live in a glass house, so don't throw stones.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1109.

    Nice words, is Obama running for pres again?

    Nothing will be done, you can bet on that.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1108.

    I don't see an issue with controlled gun ownership, but why the hell does any prviate citizen need an ASSAULT RIFLE? A handgun for defence, not unreasonable, a Hunting Rifle for sport, fine. But a semi-automatic assault rifle is simply indefensible, anyone who supports the continued access of such weapons in private hands frankly has blood on their hands.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1107.

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

    You just repeated the behaviour I was highlighting.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1106.

    @1078 Trout Mask Replica
    "You keep doing it. You find anecdotal evidence that supports ...anarchic-libertarianism..."
    -
    Again, I'm a libertarian (minarchist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism ), not an anarchist.
    I don't harm other people, but I have the right to defend myself. Sorry if this offends you who'd rather me defenceless. Where was the state in this tragic case eh, MIA?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1105.

    @999 No we are not anti American, we are anti easy access to killing machines. The US constitution on the right to bear arms is out of date. It was not drawn up for the purpose of any idiot being able to go and kill whoever they like, nor were assault rifles or any other automatic weapon invented at the time. Time the US came into the 21'st century and realise that no one has the right to kill.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1104.

    my deep condolences for the death of american and afganistani children.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1103.

    @919. (Jethro Tull) - RE your comments:

    "If those poor kids had been allowed to carry their own guns they could have defended themselves and would still be alive, but thanks to looney tune leftist socialist idiots, that's not the case"

    Are you REALLY suggesting we should let 6 year old kids wander around school with guns? You are a good reason in itself to control access to deadly weapons.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1102.

    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
    //////
    We're not all gaurdian readers you know. Are all gun owners in the US all right wing though?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1101.

    I feel sorry for Obama and the victim's families.. they haven't yet realised they are living in modern day Sodom and there is nothing they can do about it.

    This is the reality of modern day America and the reason why Europe should be rid of all American influence. Let's not let this American disease infest our homeland. Boycott the Satanic USA!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1100.

    @900 actually the Swiss have been trying to change their gun laws, although already very strict, there have been a number of killings, usually family related, using military issue weapons. Private owned weapons are strictly controlled and permits hard to get, and these weapons are rarely used in murder/suicide. The issue is the personal military weapon being kept at home.

 

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