As a country, we have been through this too many times, says Obama
President Barack Obama, his voice breaking and tears forming in his eyes, said the killing of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school shows the nation must take “meaningful action” to stem such violence. “There’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” Mr Obama said at the White House, just hours after the shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Our hearts are broken today.”
The president ordered US flags flown at half-staff at all federal buildings and US facilities overseas. He also cancelled an appearance next week in Maine. Mr Obama focused on the families of the victims and the reaction of the nation, touching only briefing on the subject of ways to address gun violence.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theatre in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods and these children are our children,” Mr Obama said.
“And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.”
The Connecticut shooting, the deadliest in a string of mass shootings this year, revived a national debate over gun control laws – a politically fraught issue that the president avoided during his re-election campaign.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said before Mr Obama spoke that reinstating the assault weapons ban “does remain a commitment” for the president.
He added that “today is not the day” to revive a policy debate. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said nothing was done after past mass shootings and now there are young school children dead.
“Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough,” Mr Bloomberg said in a statement. “We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today.”
The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Democratic Representative Nita Lowey of New York, a long- time advocate of gun-control legislation, said in a statement that “our expressions of sympathy must be matched with concrete actions to stop gun violence.”
Lowey, who has co-sponsored legislation to require gun-show operators to register with law-enforcement agencies and to keep weapons-purchase records, said: “We cannot tolerate mass shootings as a mere inconvenience or a normal part of our everyday lives.”