Newtown shootings: Obama 'backs assault weapons ban'


White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president supported legislation on the so-called 'gun show loophole'

US President Barack Obama wants to reinstate an assault weapons ban in the wake of the mass killings in Newtown, Connecticut, his spokesman says.

Jay Carney said the president was "actively supportive" of a Democratic senator's plan to introduce a bill on the first day of the next Congress.

There could also be moves on ammunition and gun-sale loopholes, Mr Carney said.

In its first statement since Friday, the National Rifle Association said it was "heartbroken" by the attack.

The gun lobby group said it was "made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters - and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," the statement said, announcing a "major news conference" to be held on Friday.

Gun sales, including those of assault rifles, have risen since Friday, a sign that enthusiasts fear that new legislation is coming, the BBC's Paul Adams in Washington reports.

At the same time, share prices of several gun manufacturers have fallen and a private equity firm has sold its stake in the company that makes the assault rifle used at Newtown, after pressure from one of its biggest investors, a California teachers retirement fund.

Gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults in last Friday's attack.

Newtown pastor Ruth Calver: "Reality hit: there were no survivors."

Students in the rest of the Newtown district returned to school on Tuesday, but Sandy Hook Elementary, where the shooting took place, is still designated a crime scene.

Closing loopholes

The US president has previously stated his support for the reintroduction of an assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004.

But he has not backed a specific move to do so before now.

"He is actively supportive of, for example, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein's stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban," Mr Carney said on Tuesday.

The White House press secretary added that Mr Obama was also supportive of other gun legislation, including on high-capacity ammunition clips and against a loophole that allows for gun purchases at gun shows without a background check.

US gun control timeline

  • June 1968: The assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy prompts calls for federal gun control measures
  • October 1968: Gun Control Act bans the sale of firearms to certain groups, including convicted felons and minors
  • March 1981: Attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan: Spokesman Jim Brady is shot in the head and paralysed for life
  • 1993: The Brady Bill requires background checks of anyone seeking to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer but exempts private sales - the so-called "gun show loophole"
  • 1994: Federal assault weapons ban is passed; critics say the ban was rife with loopholes and easily evaded
  • 2004: Assault weapons ban expires; congress shows little interest in renewing it
  • 2008: In District of Columbia v Heller ruling, the US Supreme Court finds the second amendment to the US constitution protects an individual's right to own guns for the purposes of self-defence
  • 2010: In McDonald v City of Chicago, the US Supreme Court holds the second amendment applies to states, potentially weakening state gun control laws

Senator Feinstein told reporters she would introduce the legislation when the new Congress met for the first time in January.

On Monday, the White House spokesman said that tighter gun control laws were only part of the answer to violence in the US, and that "no single action will fully address the problem".

But correspondents say that Democrats are now less reluctant to pursue gun control legislation than before, after two pro-gun senators said they supported action in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Mr Carney said the president had spoken on Tuesday to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and avid hunter who made comments the day before about preventing gun violence.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Obama expressed support for the ban on assault weapons during one of three televised debates against Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

"I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theatres don't belong on our streets," Mr Obama said in the second debate on 16 October.

"And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced."

Return to school

Newtown's schools began their day two hours late, with grief counsellors and police present, but students said they were not expecting to get very much work done.

Murder by firearms in 2011

Map of worst 10 states for firearms murder in 2011, by rate. DC 12.5, LOUISIANA 8.8, SOUTH CAROLINA 4.8, MARYLAND 4.7, MISSISSIPPI 4.6, MISSOURI 4.6, MICHIGAN 4.6, TENNESSEE 3.8, GEORGIA 3.8, ARKANSAS 3.7. For comparison: CONNECTICUT 2.6, USA 2.8

Rate per 100,000 people

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports

"Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world," Charles Dumais, Newtown High School's head teacher wrote in a blog post, entitled "The Beginning".

One of the school's students, 17-year-old PJ Hickey, said: "We're going to be able to comfort each other and try and help each other get through this, because that's the only way we're going to do it," the Associated Press reported.

But he added: "There's going to be no joy in school. It really doesn't feel like Christmas anymore."

It was unclear how many of the town's 4,700 students would attend classes.

Funerals for the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School continued on Tuesday, after the first victims were buried on Monday.

Services were held for James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos, both six-year-olds.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to piece together a picture of the gunman.

Some gun shops in the US have seen a rise in sales as people try to beat any new laws

Police said they were working to recover information from a damaged computer found at Lanza's home, ABC News reported.

And Connecticut's chief medical examiner has said tests are under way to see whether the gunman had taken medicines at the time of the shooting.

Before trading began on Wall Street on Tuesday a US private equity firm said it would sell its stake in the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the weapon used in the Newtown school shootings.

Dick's Sporting Goods, a US chain, also announced it would suspend sales of modern sporting rifles in all stores, and remove all guns from a display at its store closest to Newtown.

Also on Tuesday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill passed on Thursday that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools, bars, places of worship and hospitals with additional training.

A group of residents who have come together as Newtown United met gun control advocates as well as families affected by other mass shootings in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

And an 11-year-old was arrested near Salt Lake City, Utah for bringing an unloaded handgun and bullets to school, saying he brought it to protect himself and his friends, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.


More on This Story

US gun debate


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  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Ah, America.

    They keep getting mass killings with guns. Gun crime is out of control. Practically every example in history of implementing strict gun control reduces gun crime. However, the answer many US cousins favor? More guns. Arm everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Why would any healthy individual, I mean healthy as much mentally as physically, need or even want an assault riffle or automatic weapon. I can understand people wanting to carry a hand gun.Out of interest, not counting the movies, has anybody every heard of an assault weapon being used in self defense successfully?

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    There is always a slight undercurrent of fear in many parts of the U.S., possibly driven by the prevalence of guns. This in itself can cause a touch of paranoia, which is fuelled by nightly sensationalist TV news. Remove the cause, remove the fear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Children die and the USA grieves. It might help them to realise what they do, with our help, to other children round the world. What a sad country the USA is. It is about time they grew up and joined the peaceful countries. Perhaps we might follow them usefully for a change by doing that as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    Actually Chicago its both..because Lanza had a gun licence despite his mental health issues .. and not just any gun licence but one which covered what was effectively an Assault rifle (whether or not the Connecticut definition of 'Assault' rifle is applicable to the Bushmaster model used).. and after Breivik, Americans lecturing Europeans about ignorance concerning gun rights is risible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    In response to 183.TallmanMike

    Sorry I'm afraid that simply is not true. Adults suffering from mental illnesses is about 1 in 4 every year in the U.K. and other western countries, including the U.S.
    So why do we not have big shoot ups in the UK? It's because there are too many guns around in the US. It is that simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    173 expat

    It has not been found that the gunman at Newtown was 'mentally ill'. Lanza may have had a breakdown, but therapy/meds that is (will be) available under healthcare would not pick that up.

    That Lanza was "mentally ill" is just a convenient lie for the pro-gun voice to hide behind, and an excuse for others to go into denial that anyone, anywhere in the the USA could do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    154: the silent majority
    So, according to your logic, everyone should carry a gun and be trained with "deadly force". That's called an arms race. The teacher might have a gun, but the other guy might have a much bigger and more powerful one. Isn't the more simpler and humane solution just to ban the guns? This isn't a game of Grand Theft Auto.

    Obama must be brave and fight the lobbies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    It's not about the guns or gun control. Yemen has the second highest gun ownership score after the US. It's about civilized attitudes. How can a state that regularly flies UAVs over other countries, in a stae of undeclared war dropping bombs on innocents, conveniently called "collateral damage", have any right to moral outrage when 26 or 7 of their own kids are murdered by a maniac?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    chris rock said it best

    I think every bullet should cost five thousand dollars. Five thousand dollars for a bullet. Know why? Cos if a bullet cost five thousand dollars, there'd be no more innocent by-standers. That'd be it. Some guy'd be shot you'd be all 'Damn, he must've done something, he's got fifty thousand dollars worth of bullets in his ass!'

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    "141. Chicago
    Nothing more than a bunch of ignorant, uneducated people commenting on a political and social system that they do not understand."

    Fine. If the opinion in the USA is that it is acceptable that 20 children die and others do so on regular basis so that hubristic and insecure people can have unfettered access to weapons, then come clean about it and say that's your society's decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Yeah...pretty much standard fare...reintroducing a lapsed temporary ban on assault weapons!

    Not exactly earth shaking.

    Americans have no intent to stop playing cowboys and others...they seem to have a collective insecurity about their machoness!

    There will be more deaths...more shootings and maybe even more kiddies murdered to preserve the cowards way!
    Unimpressive and immature,,,,!

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Many people in US r in 18th century mode. They love to live in past & naively consider anything historic, passed to them by their equally wise parents, must be true & uphold as "tradition". That include political allegiance framed during Lincoln era or a 1791 law (2nd amendment) copied from a 1689 era British law!
    That allegiance is more important than lives of kids or well being of the nation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Reading the loony pro-gun comments on here it becomes even clearer how vital a total ban is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.


    Really ? The town i live in has seen 1 gun related death in 20 years.
    I think the draconian UK laws as you put it work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    @154 the silent majority,
    Teachers need to carry weapons and be able to use deadly force.

    What happens if you get an armed teacher,with mental problems ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Nothing will change, people put themselves first before thinking of others, I would never ever buy a child a toy gun never mind thinking of buying a real one........................people should take a look at what they value more, so sad as all life is precious and I have to say if I was offending anyone in anyway then I would do my best to put it right.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    You can't get the toothpaste back in the tube.

    The issue is not banning guns but getting the 270 million in the US out of circulation. Fat chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Guns are great fun when you use them properly. It's whatever is driving people in America to murder which needs to be addressed, not a harmless pass-time.

    If they only treat the symptoms and not the cause, the violence will just flare up somewhere else using different tools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I am sick of seeing people say 'guns are not the problem, it's the people who use them who do the killings who are the problem'. So here's a thought - take away the guns, then the 'people who use them to kill' will no longer be able to use them to kill. Countries with strong gun control have fewer gun deaths. That is beyond dispute.


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