December 17, 2012

Obama: ‘These tragedies must end’

Obama speaks to families of the victims, and new details suggest the Connecticut school massacre could have been much worse.


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“You are not alone in your grief,” President Obama told the residents of Newtown, Conn., Sunday. “Our world, too, has been torn apart.”

McClatchy Newspapers

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Residents greet each other Sunday before the start of an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The vigil was being held at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.

The Associated Press

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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.

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Residents look on during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Sunday at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.

The Associated Press

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Mourners at Sunday's interfaith vigil.

The Associated Press


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