Obama delivers powerful pledge

US President Barack Obama speaking in Newtown, 16 December 2012 Barack Obama referred to the four mass killings that have happened under his presidency

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President Obama has promised to use the power of his office to do all he can to prevent another massacre of the innocent.

He didn't directly mention gun control, but speaking in front of an audience of the bereaved and their friends in Newtown, it is the strongest pledge a president has ever made to wrestle with the powerful gun lobby.

He spoke not from the Oval Office, or some grand convention centre, but at a prayer vigil that could have been in any small town.

It all seemed so familiar.

At the beginning the blue curtains were pulled back either side of the stage, people of all ages sat in the rows of chairs, the piano played familiar tunes, a baby interrupted with a cry.

It could have been a village hall anywhere in this country or our own, about to celebrate a nativity or watch a pantomime.

But it wasn't just any where, it was Newtown.

This simple, homespun service brought home the sense that an ordinary place and ordinary people have been struck by a blow so grotesquely out of the ordinary that it makes a country beg for meaning.

Struggling for a response

Yet it isn't out of the ordinary at all.

Start Quote

Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage”

End Quote Barack Obama

As the president pointed out, there have been four such mass murders during his presidency, punctuated by other killings, almost weekly tragedies.

As a late arrival here, I really get the feeling of a country struggling to find an appropriate response to this home-grown horror.

I have heard questions about video games, violence, young men and mental health.

TV stations have aired discussion about God's will, and with near desperation seek stories of heroism to redeem an American narrative.

But it keeps coming back to that assault rifle that was used to murder so many.

It is hard for many in Britain to understand the meaning of guns in America, the association with rights and freedoms.

To some the constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms is a bulwark against tyranny, as well as a means of practical self-protection.

But the president spoke of the desperate need of parents to do all they can to protect their children and asked:

"Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

As yet supporters of liberal gun laws remain silent, doubtless hoping the wave of emotion will pass from the headlines and nothing will change.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Ownership of weapons can be licensed and permitted as in the UK. Firearm massacres are not unknown in the UK and EU but they are much lower in frequency. How about a referendum to give the American people an opportunity to express their views as opposed to the NRA making all the running. What is it about society that makes ordinary citizens feel the need to bear arms - because everyone else does?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    How many more times? The Right to bear arms? What about the right to life? How many more dark days before enough is enough? Is this what the founding Fathers envisaged, military weapons to kill its future generations in American class rooms, by American citizens?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #12 @Mikelley I think you are on the wrong forum...

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The American people should be given the power to reconsider their gun laws not politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Bispinosa. That's an odd thing to say in my opinion. They need to be safe before they are free surely. Nobody who is dead can be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    If the 2nd. Amendment gives individuals the right to bear arms to protect their homes, then why do Americans need an array of powerful automatic weapons with thousands of rounds? Who are they going to defend their homes against..an army..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The right to bear arms is a core American tradition and if anything the court system has been moving in favor of increased liberty in this area, not less. There are many gun enthusiasts who understand responsibility and the value of life, and I oppose any new laws that would penalize them for the actions of lone, insane gunmen. I want my children to be safe, yes, but I'd rather they be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Nothing will happen, the NRA and other gun lobbyists and the Constitution will prevent any meaningful action.
    In the UK a man walked into a school in Dunblane and killed 18 people, within two years no private individual could own a hand-gun, even the UK Olympic .22 Target pistol team have to train in Belgium.
    Ironically, the US 'right to bear arms' came straight from the UK's 1688 Bill of Rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    America so often sees itself as a 'Christian' country - I don't remember Jesus as a man of violence - when soldiers came to take him to the cross he stopped his followers from using swords and healed the one who's ear was cut off - America is not a Christian country let's face it, if you need a semi-automatic machine gun to feel safe, it's in a bad place!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The right to bear arms (1791) does not seem particularly relevant in today's world but can anyone see this absolute gospel being ditched ?.
    Several current tv programmes on gun makers in the u.s. show the extent to which the firearm is almost a holy cow in the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Some people say it's not about the guns, but the people who use them. Surely the most common sense solution is to make guns incredibly difficult to get hold of (perhaps following the method the Japanese use). People should feel safe, not scared. This issue is damaging America's reputation, I think. We don't follow laws that are outdated, impractical or irrelevant in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    When will America learn that more guns mean more violence? If every nutcase can get hold of war guns how on earth can such carnage be prevented? I hope they learn this time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Gun Control is the only answer. Limit the guns to what was available when the constitution was made. When the Right to Bare Arms came about there was no machine guns, no assault rifles, no automatic wepeons just the basic hand gun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Not much that hasn't been said before but how do even American extremists justify needing an assault rifle with masses of bullets for their protection?


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