Newtown grieves as first victims buried


As families in Newtown, Connecticut, began to bury their murdered children yesterday, authorities tightened security at other schools across the country, and US president Obama picked up crucial support in his push to tighten restrictions on weapons such as the one used in Friday’s massacre.

In what was a precursor for a string of funerals planned in the bucolic, picture-postcard New England town, services were held for two of the 20 children killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner, both aged six, died with their first-grade classmates when Adam Lanza opened fire with a military-style assault rifle.

Underscoring how much grief is mixed with fear and anxiety, schools in two nearby communities were put in lockdown yesterday after police received reports of suspicious people near those schools. No one was arrested, but the precaution taken by authorities showed how some people are on edge following Friday’s attack, the second-worst school shooting in US history.

Security was ramped up at schools across the US to guard against potential copycat attacks. In Boston, police commissioner Ed Davis said his officers had stepped up routine patrols at the city’s schools.

Call for action

Meanwhile, Mr Obama’s emotional call for action, delivered during an 18-minute address at an interfaith memorial service for the victims at the Newtown high school on Sunday night, was quickly bearing fruit.

US senator Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, US representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, and US senator Mark Warner of Virginia, all of them Democrats from gun-friendly states, went public yesterday saying it was time to tighten controls on some guns, especially military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazine clips.

Like Manchin, Warner has an “A” voting rating from the National Rifle Association, and is seen as an ally of the gun lobby, making his support for some form of gun control especially significant. Leading Republicans, who are generally seen as more supportive of the NRA and the gun lobby, have been noticeably silent since Friday’s slaughter.

“Enough is enough,” said Warner, echoing a sentiment that has emerged from a growing number of legislators previously seen as staunch allies of the NRA and the influential, well-financed gun lobby. “I think most of us realise that there are ways to get to rational gun control. There are ways to grapple with the obvious challenges of mental illness.”

Police said that establishing whether Adam Lanza was mentally ill is part of their investigation into Friday’s attack, which ranks only behind the 2007 shooting at the campus of Virginia Tech which left 32 people and the shooter dead.

While there were fewer victims in Newtown, the tender age of so many of those killed has provoked a more emotional and, it appears, political response.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Connecticut State Police Lt J Paul Vance said the Sandy Hook school would remain closed indefinitely so investigators can conduct a thorough forensic examination.

Moving trucks were seen transferring desks and chairs and other furniture to another school for Sandy Hook students to attend.

While it has been previously reported that only one adult at the school who had been shot survived, Vance said that two adults working at the school were wounded, and that they would prove crucial in helping police piece together what happened during the massacre.

Vance said police had recovered a computer and cellphones from the home Nancy Lanza shared with her 20-year-old son, which he said would help investigators.

“We will go back to the date of his birth,” Vance said of Adam Lanza, whose motive remains a mystery.

Friends of Nancy Lanza, who had legally purchased at least five guns, including the rifle and two semi-automatic pistols that Adam Lanza brought to the school, said she had been considering moving with her troubled son to Washington state. They said she had identified a school there that could help him.

Socially awkward

Money was apparently no object. Records released yesterday showed that Nancy Lanza was receiving annual alimony payments totalling $289,000 from her former husband, Peter, a tax executive. The couple divorced in 2009, apparently amicably.

Adam Lanza was said to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. He was described as academically bright but socially awkward. He did not have a criminal record.

Friends of his mother said she took him to a local gun range to teach him how to use a gun responsibly, and to engage in what friends described as mother-son bonding. Adam Lanza used his mother’s guns to kill her before setting off to attack the school.

While the police searched for answers, politicians searched for solutions.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said she would introduce a Bill that would ban the sale and possession of magazine clips that hold more than 10 bullets.

Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and chairman of a subcommittee on constitutional rights, pledged to hold hearings on the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

While the NRA and gun enthusiasts view the Second Amendment as almost sacred, gun-control advocates say it is an 18th-century relic that needs to be changed to reflect modern reality.