Newtown funerals continue in US

Thu, Dec 20, 2012, 00:00

Even as they buried more victims of the second-deadliest school shooting in US history today, residents of Newtown, Connecticut, looked for ways to pressure national leaders to restrict access to weapons.

Funerals were scheduled for half-dozen people, some as young as six years old, who were shot and killed last Friday by a heavily armed 20-year-old man who attacked an elementary school with an assault rifle.

The December 14th rampage, in which 28 people were killed including 20 children and the gunman, has sparked new discussion on tightening the nation's gun laws, a thorny political issue in the United States, which has a strong culture of individual gun ownership.

Vice president Joe Biden plans to convene today the first meeting of a new White House task force charged by President Barack Obama with drawing up a plan to tackle gun violence in the United States.

The powerful firearms lobby, the National Rifle Association, which has long resisted any effort to restrict gun ownership, signaled this week it may be ready to bend. It said it would offer "meaningful contributions" to prevent future such massacres at an event in Washington on Friday.

In Newtown, a few dozen residents met at the town library last night to discuss ways they could influence the national debate. Senator Richard Blumenthal told the group it was time for a "seismic change" in gun policies.

"This horrific tragedy has changed America, in the way that it is ready to stop the spread of gun violence," Mr Blumenthal said.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, used guns that were legally purchased and registered to his mother Nancy, his first victim, in Friday's attack.

A funeral home outside Connecticut plans to claim her body, The New Haven Register reported, citing Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Dr H. Wayne Carver II. Lanza's brother is a retired police official from New Hampshire.

Speaking at the town library meeting, Connecticut senator-elect Chris Murphy urged the participants to use the formerly quiet suburb's time in the national spotlight to pressure his future colleagues in Washington to act.

"The most important thing is to build a movement here, to build a network," Mr Murphy told the group, Newtown United. Both Murphy and Blumenthal are Democrats.

US lawmakers are already taking steps to restrict access to the deadliest weapons. Democrats in the House of Representatives yesterday began to push for a vote on a bill that would ban high-capacity ammunition clips that allow a shooter wielding an assault rifle to spray dozens of bullets without pausing to reload.

The backlash against guns has not been limited to lawmakers. Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc took down an informational website about Bushmaster rifles, the sort used in the attack. Dick's Sporting Goods pulled all guns from its store closest to the massacre in Newtown, about 130 km northeast of New York City.

Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP this week said it would sell the Freedom Group, the largest US manufacturer of firearms, which produced the Bushmaster AR-15-type rifle used in the attack.

Officials from states including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and California have begun a review of their investments in firearms manufacturers.