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

Related Stories

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.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Is Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy about to bring back Blairism?

Those on the left think new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could be about to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Guns are lethal. The ingrained American gun culture will have to change. Otherwise more tragedies are bound to happen. Corrective steps need to be put in place and Congress has to act without further delay. Tough gun laws need to be enacted. There is no room for shilly-shallying. This brutal attack has resulted in innocent lives being taken away; especially defenceless children. What a tragedy

  • Comment number 54.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Every time there is one of these atrocities in America, more people go out and buy guns. It's like throwing petrol on a raging fire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    US Conservatives won't let gays get married. And they don't want ordinary people to have access to healthcare.

    But they insist people have the right to carry armalites and AK47's. And now they want to "arm all the teachers".

    Speaks volumes about their mindset.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Imagine the possibilities! Imagine how good it would feel to see a halt or a vast reduction in these tragedies? Imagine being part of the generation that made it happen.
    Obama is right, is it good enough to say it's too hard to change? Dare to dream America, you never know what you can achieve it if you really want to....

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    There is probably little that can be done in terms of Gun Control. But perhaps a great deal more could be done in terms of Ammunition Control?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Ridiculous country. Nobody can enact the right to bear arms and defend themselves unless they carry a holster and gun around all day. Add up all the thousands of people who were murderded by guns and compare the number against those who successfully defended themselves with a gun. So just give up guns.. or arm the teachers and janitors with assault rifles!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    ref #40
    Americans must change. Lay down your weapons, for everyone's sake.
    This is a very naive and unrealistic outlook. The problem s not with gun owner (I do not own one) it is that they are people who are mentaly unbalnced or evil.

    there is no way to get all the guns out of circulation, so lets look at constructive solutions

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The USA in this way is not a democracy. Children and citizens should have a right not to be murdered, but these gun fundamentalists can have any weapons for their killings. I imagine children are scared to go to school in the USA, and President Obama should be angry about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The idea that teachers and educators should now double up as the armed forces is really ludicrous. More guns equals more gun crime and the statistics prove that. I don't think many teachers would be thankful to be put in that situation either. They have chosen to teach, if they wanted to be in combat would they not have chosen the army?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    The answer is obvious but nothing will happen.

    After the Aurora shootings gun sales went up!

    America - you deserve yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The Right to Bear Arms.

    It meant 'the right to carry a shotgun to shoot deer or foxes and so on'.

    Not the right to carry armalites around towns and massacre people at random!

    The USA needs to sort itself out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    We should take a lesson from the Israelis:

    To combat terrorist attacks, certain teachers are trained and are armed. As a result these henious acts have been halted.

    There is no way to take the amount of guns in the U.S out of circlation

  • Comment number 42.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Parental mental illness also needs accurate diagnosis&treatment. This murdered mother was also clearly experiencing enormous stress; her gun-enthusiasm may have seemed to her to be an innocent 'coping exercise' & stress-reliever. Had the US a more robust health care system that encouraged docs & patients to take adequate time addressing all complaints & troubles, tragedy might have been prevented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    DPotter at 17 has it exactly right. I can understand the need for guns at a time when America was being settled, and can understand why the right to bear arms was put in the Constitution at that time and the importance Americans attach to the Consitution. But that was then. Things change. The right to bear arms is outmoded. Americans must change. Lay down your weapons, for everyone's sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    The idea of bearing arms was not born in a time when automatic small arms were readily available. It was born in a time of the flintlock musket and pistol that took minutes to load and fire, did not always work and was low in accuracy. The gun lobby is in denial. Society has a duty to protect the innocent

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    More thoughtful comments here than on some North American paper threads. I'm a gun owner and enthusiast with a lot of sympathy for the so-called "gun lobby." But I believe there is no justification for civilian ownership of assault-style rifles. Gun owners have got to voluntarily clean up their act or face the prospect of government doing it. In Canada, we saw what a disaster that option became.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Ring Sting @ 34

    I wonder if the lovely young teacher who put her body between this madman's assualt rifle and her charges was thinking, " Thank God I haven't got a gun!" No one forces millions of gun owners to buy them, therefore it is defacto a substantially gun owning society. Look at how prohibition turned out and the constitution did not deem it a right to drink! "Just Say No!" Please?

  • Comment number 36.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


Page 28 of 30



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.