NEWTOWN, Conn. — President Obama made his fourth sorrowful trip to a shocked and grieving community on Sunday, two days after a gunman stormed into an elementary school here and gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults.
He spent part of the afternoon watching his own young daughter Sasha in a dance rehearsal, and then arrived a few hours later here to meet privately with the parents who won’t see their children sing and dance again. “You are not alone in your grief,” he said. “Our world, too, has been torn apart.”
The president was the last speaker in an interfaith vigil at Newtown High School. Of the massacre, he said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.”
A long line of families waiting to get in had snaked around the building, many huddled under white Red Cross blankets.
Volunteers handed out stuffed puppy dogs to the many children.
The auditorium of the school, which was locked down for hours Friday because of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was full. Many of the children chattered happily with their friends, while adults huddled in small groups and hugged one another.
Kristen Rosengrant came with her sons, 5 and 9, who expressed dismay at the length of the line.
“The president’s an important dude,” she told the boys.
“As a mom, I’ve been so upset,” she told a reporter. “I felt we had to come show our support.”
She said she appreciated the president coming to her town, adding, “To be honest, I don’t think anything is going to help the families, but it’s nice to show concern.”
Dozens of church services had been held in the morning, as well as impromptu teary gatherings as people laid flowers and stuffed animals near the town’s flagpole. The evening event marked the first time this tightknit and shattered community gathered as one to grieve and speak of the unspeakable.
The details about the carnage continued to mount Sunday. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, carried “numerous” high-capacity ammunition magazines for his semiautomatic rifle, as well as multiple magazines for two other guns, police said. In all, he had hundreds of bullets with him when he shot out a pane of glass and entered Sandy Hook Elementary at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Police said Lanza used one gun – a Bushmaster-brand rifle – to kill 26 of those inside.
They said that Lanza had a number of 30-round magazines for this rifle. He also brought magazines for two other guns, pistols made by Sig Sauer and Glock, police said. But he apparently fired just one of those guns at the school, shooting himself in the head. Police found him dead.
Police did not say which weapon Lanza used to kill the first victim of his rampage, his mother. Nancy Lanza, 52, was killed in the home she and her son shared before Lanza went to Sandy Hook. Autopsy results released Sunday listed multiple gunshot wounds to her head.
The details about Adam Lanza’s weaponry, released by Connecticut State Police on Sunday afternoon, raised new questions about how he had obtained so many magazines. They signaled that Lanza’s massacre might have been much worse: When he died, police said, Lanza was still carrying large amounts of unused ammunition. He had left a fourth gun, a shotgun, in a car outside the school.
Still, police said Lanza was able to unleash unbelievable devastation with one weapon, and in just a few minutes. A reporter asked how many bullets had been fired during the rampage.
“That’s impossible to say,” said Lt. Paul Vance of the state police.
For the fourth time in his four years as president, Obama returned to lead the awful rituals that go with mass death and national grief. He made similar visits to Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, Tucson, Ariz., in 2011 and Aurora, Colo., this past July – each time in the aftermath of a gunman’s spree. He has tended to focus on emotion and healing in these moments, touching only lightly on the subject of guns and gun control.
Now, however, Obama will face a new and higher level of pressure from advocates of gun control who say that, this time, he must do more than grieve.
They want him to make a strong push for new laws to restrict weapons like the semiautomatic rifle used in Friday’s massacre.
On Sunday morning, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said this is the time to bring back an assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I, – perhaps the country’s best-known advocate for gun control – said Obama should act while the country’s attention is focused on the damage that an assault weapon can do. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed Sunday to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons at the start of the next Congress.
And Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer that this rampage seemed to prove that his state’s tough gun laws are not enough.
“When someone can use an assault weapon to enter a building, actually shoot out that which was preventing him getting in the building, have clips of up to 30 rounds on a weapon that can almost instantaneously fire those, you have to start to question whether assault weapons should be allowed to be distributed the way they are in the United States,” Malloy said on “Face the Nation.”
“You’re right, Connecticut has pretty tough regulations,” he said. “But obviously they didn’t prevent this woman (Nancy Lanza) from acquiring that weapon and obviously allowed the son to come into possession of those and use them in a most disastrous way.”
In the meantime, it appeared that Capitol Hill opponents of gun control had decided this was a time for silence. Betsy Fischer Martin, executive producer of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” tweeted Sunday morning that the show “reached out to ALL 31 pro-gun rights Sens in the new Congress to invite them to share their views on @meetthepress – NO takers.”
In Connecticut on Sunday, state police issued a warning about a proliferation of Internet hoaxes related to the case, which have included purported postings from Lanza himself before the crime, or notes supposedly written by children before they were killed.
In Newtown on Sunday, the first funerals were being scheduled. The first was set for 1 p.m. Monday, the Connecticut Post said, for Noah Pozner, 6. Elsewhere, at Newtown’s St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, they were planning eight. In all, 10 of the 20 child victims belonged to the parish.
But even in that epicenter of the town’s grief, new ugliness intruded Sunday. Around noon, someone called the church phone and said, “I’m going to kill everyone there. My friend didn’t finish the job.”
Ten minutes later, a state trooper interrupted Monsignor Robert Weiss during an interview with a Washington Post reporter. “Father, we’re taking this as a credible threat. We need to evacuate the church,” the trooper said.
Weiss helped lead the evacuation, and the church emptied without incident. Afterward, SWAT officers in military-style clothing entered to search the church. They found nothing. But after the threat, St. Rose – which had been open 24 hours a day since the shootings – remained closed and locked.