First funerals of Newtown shooting victims are held
Mourners in Newtown, Connecticut, headed for the first two of 20 funerals of schoolchildren massacred in their classroom today.
Tiny caskets marked the first wave of funerals for the 20 children and six adults killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both six years old, are being laid to rest today.
Jessica Rekos, also six, will be laid to rest tomorrow.
Meanwhile, schools in the town of Ridgefield, about 30km from Newtown, were locked down today following reports of a possible "suspicious person" near Branchville Elementary School. In nearby Redding, schools were locked down as a precaution, police said. The alert has now been lifted.
President Barack Obama, who said in Newtown last night that the 20-year-old gunman acted out of "unconscionable evil," was praised by the family of teacher Victoria Soto (27), who was killed as she tried to protect her first-grade students. "He really made us feel like she really was a hero and that everyone should know it," her brother, Carlos Soto, said on CBS today.
Mr Obama, addressing an interfaith vigil in the small Connecticut town last night, spoke forcefully on the country's failings in protecting its children and demanded changes in response to the mass shootings of the last few months. "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," he said, adding that he would bring together law enforcement, teachers, mental health professionals and others to study how to stop the violence. But before those changes, the families of the victims will grieve.
A prominent pro-gun senator today on Congress and the gun industry to come together on a "sensible, reasonable approach" to curbing high-powered, assault weapons like those used by Lanza. Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has earned top marks from the gun industry, said all ideas should be open for discussion.
Mr Manchin, a hunter and member of the National Rifle Association, said the availability of such high-powered weapons does not make sense and called on the gun lobby group to cooperate with a reform of gun laws. The NRA has been an influential force against limiting gun sales and has succeeded in loosening restrictions on some high-powered combat weapons originally intended for military use. "We've got to sit down. I ask all my friends at NRA - and I'm a proud NRA member and always have been - we need to sit down and move this dialogue to a sensible, reasonable approach to fixing it," he told MSNBC's Morning Joe programme.
Addressing the nation's gun laws are just part of a larger cultural problem in the United States, Mr Manchin acknowledged. "But everything needs to be on the table, and I think it will be," he said.