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 595.

    #551. Yes, but how do guns get into the hands of criminals? The answer is, that most are stolen from law-abiding citizens, so if you restrict the legal sale of guns, then it follows, that less guns will eventually fall into criminal hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    Obama should, in my view, take steps both to limit powerful guns & to moderate his own political rhetoric. Attacking the 1%, the 2%, or the 3%, the bankers, the talented, etc is divisive & breeds resentment.

    An unintended consequence of demagoguery is to feed the resentful fantasies of the infantilized weirdos living with their parents way beyond chronological childhood. Time to be inclusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    ref #557
    10 Hours ago
    Look, it works! Belgium has strenghtened its gun law since 2006
    Look at Switzerland and Israel which have a large percentage owning guns, neither country has the problem like Sandy Hook

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    ref #591
    Mayor Bloomberg is strong enough to take on the NRA.
    Not anymore, his failure during Sandy as well as the caricture as the Food police and other Nanny ideas have made him a joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.


    Mayor Bloomberg is strong enough to take on the NRA. Plenty of consensus out there that we cannot tolerate the status quo enabling out-of-control gun ownership & catering to the self-gratification needs of some highly immature people. No, they are not "going to war."

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    An FBI agent opined that sadly no amount of laws could deter such crimes, as indeed most stringent ones in Norway did not: the monomania of shooters is such that they will find a way to get the guns, since everyday criminals do, so that laws would only keep the law abiding from preventing such crimes, as did a principle who stopped a school shooting with a .45 he pointed at a potential shooter

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Over 4000 children were run over by cars last year, a hundred of them were killed. Why is there no outcry to ban or regulate cars? I mean you don't 'need' a ferrari do you? Why own a car specifically intended to go much faster than the laws allow? Why is nobody demanding all cars be restricted to 30mph?

    Could it be because people want to be held responsible for their OWN actions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    As pointed out the latest shooting is hardly an isolated incident. What I find hardest to understand is that, though this seems to happen so so often, Americans STILL demand the right to own firearms. Its as if the regular sacrifice of all these children and others is one they are prepared to make. I find this incomprehensible.What sort of people are happy to sacrifice children in this way? So sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    could one of our pro-gun, anti control friends please tell me abiout their experiences with guns and the feeling they get when they hold one in their hands?

  • Comment number 586.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    The inherent 'violence' in Western society (not just American) is in its shallow economic that seeks to pit man against man whilst relegating dignity to second best (if at all). America has to start from scratch if it hopes to eradicate these symptomatic sprees. There are far more devious and concealed sprees that 'kill them softly' (from a distance). Tackle these and you'll get to the source.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    There will be a time that all Americans will have a gun if the politicians don't do something about this outdated legislation. Owning a gun will be the only way to defend oneself. Do we want that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    Obama is flogging a dead horse. The absolute best he could hope to persuade his more insane countrymen to agree to would be gun laws similar to what the UK had on March 13th 1996. Remember what happened that day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    The Second Amendment gives (on a surprisingly recent court ruling) the right for US citizens to protect themselves with handguns. Thus the Second Amendment gives you the right to bear a weapon, but not the right to bear any weapon. Like you can't have a thermonuclear weapon in your backyard.
    The basis for self defence also falls down with assault weapons if most people use handguns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Obama hasn't got a hope.
    There is no reasoning with closed minded fools and a powerful industry with many lobbyists.
    Remember this is the country where a large proportion of the population would rather believe a fairy tale about a great creator than the science of evolution with much supporting evidence.
    The arguments they propose are just pathetic.
    La la la....not listening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    250. Hopalongcasualty
    "USA, 32,367 deaths by motor vehicle in 2011, guess we should ban all cars"
    No. Cars are a mode of transport people try to make safer. Guns are a means of killing people that losers try to make kill more. Though your road death stats are shocking and suggest US roads kill 40% more per billion km traveled than the UK. So perhaps you could look at that as well as gun control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    ref #578 I could name those people but the moderators would remove the post

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    577 "unless you are blinded by the racism against Jews several posters here are" - what a ridculous statement, you don't agree so you are "racist", very Labour and BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    ref #573

    No what I am saying is that there are too many guns in circulation and that a gun ban does not solve the problem. but I fail to see how anyone can object to following the Israel method which works. unless you are blinded by the racism against Jews several posters here are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    The gun lobby will probably argue that more children need to be armed. If every schoolchild over the age of 4 carries an assault weapon, grenades and an assortment of pistols, less crime will happen.


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