Obama signals guns control, pledging to end ‘tragedies’

Obama signals guns control, pledging to end ‘tragedies’

Obama signals guns control, pledging to end ‘tragedies’

Residents wait for the start of an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown. President Barack Obama (below) join mourners and consoles the victims’ families. AP photos

U.S. President Barack Obama vowed Dec. 16 to use all his power to stop gun massacres like the slaughter at a Connecticut school, saying “these tragedies must end.”

Obama vented passion and anger as he told the grief-stricken community of Newtown, reeling from the unspeakable horror of Dec. 14’s rampage, that he was consoling victims of the fourth mass shooting of his presidency.

“Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?” he asked, as 26 candles burned by his podium to commemorate the victims. Obama promised to use “whatever power this office holds” to try to prevent more tragedies like the one that struck Newtown, appearing to set up a new political battle with America’s powerful gun lobby with the potential to define his second term.

“Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage?”

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14 elicited horror around the world, soul-searching in the United States, fresh political debate and questions about the incomprehensible, what drove the 20-year-old suspect to kill his mother and then unleash gunfire on children. A total of six adults and 20 boys and girls ages 6 and 7 were slaughtered.

In his speech at the high school in picturesque Newtown, close to the elementary school, Obama did not mention gun control directly, though his intent appeared clear.

He did not cast the fight against the entrenched gun lobby, which wields substantial power in Congress, as an effort to confiscate weapons, a desire his most vehement conservative opponents often say he harbors. But he suggested that the argument should be built more on the need to protect defenseless children.

Heartrending sobs broke the silence as Obama slowly read the names of the six heroic women who died trying to protect their innocent charges as gunman Adam Lanza unleashed terror with a military-style assault rifle. The president also read the names of the children whose lives were taken, in an incredibly poignant moment. “They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school, in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America,” he said.

Two funerals held

The small Connecticut town held the first two of 20 funerals for the schoolchildren yesterday. Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both six years old, were set to be laid to rest yesterday afternoon. In Newtown, schools were not scheduled to reopen yesterday. The district has said teachers need time to prepare for the students’ return.

As a political effort, leading Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein launched a bid Dec. 16 to ban assault weapons in the wake of the latest deadly shooting, announcing that she will put a bill before Congress on Jan. 3.

Feinstein, the influential chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she believed Obama would support her legislation, also aimed at outlawing magazines carrying more than 10 bullets. Feinstein said she would announce the authors of the House of Representatives’ bill soon and vowed that carefully crafted legislation would be tabled on the first day of the new Congress.

“There will be a bill,” she said, stressing the world “will.” “It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession [of assault weapons]. Not retroactively, but prospectively. It will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets,” she added.