Obama Mourns With Families at Connecticut Vigil

Vows Effort To Tame Violence, but Doesn't Address Gun Laws

Solemn Sunday: The president traveled to Newtown, CT to address a community ravaged by Friday’s elementary school shooting.
Getty Images
Solemn Sunday: The president traveled to Newtown, CT to address a community ravaged by Friday’s elementary school shooting.

By Reuters

Published December 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday demanded changes in the way the country dealt with gun violence, though he avoided the use of the word “gun” itself in consoling the Connecticut town shattered by the massacre of 20 young schoolchildren.

Obama said the world would judge the nation by the way it cared for its children, and that Friday’s slaughter left that judgment wanting.

“Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this in the last few days. And if we’re honest with ourselves the answer’s no,” Obama told a packed auditorium at Newtown High School at the end of a somber multi-faith service.

“We’re not doing enough and we will have to change.”

The emotional prayer vigil, which included a reading of Psalm 46 by local Rabbi Shaul Praver, capped a day when worshippers sought solace in houses of worship to mourn the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where a gunman used a military-style assault rifle to kill six adults and 20 first-graders before committing suicide.

A more detailed picture of Adam Lanza’s stunning attack emerged on Sunday. Police said he was armed with hundreds of bullets in high-capacity magazines of about 30 rounds each for the Bushmaster AR 15 rifle and two handguns he carried into the school. He had a fourth weapon, a shotgun, in his car outside.

All the dead children were either 6 or 7 years old, feeding more emotion into a revived debate about whether stricter gun laws could prevent future mass shootings in the United States.

Obama noted it was the fourth time in his presidency he had needed to console a community after such an attack, following the shootings in Tucson, Arizona in January, 2011; Aurora, Colorado in July; and Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August.

“Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of the nation,” Obama said. “I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.”

Obama, who on Friday wiped away tears as he addressed the nation following the killings, somberly spoke the first names of the 20 children. People in the audience wailed and cried out as they heard the names.

He said he would convene a meeting of law enforcers, parents, educators and others in an effort to prevent future tragedies, but he did not specifically call for tougher gun laws, mindful of the heated debate ahead on the issue.

PICTURE OF THE CRIME

While townspeople grieved, investigators examined forensic evidence and scoured the crime scene in a process likely to extend for weeks. Many more witnesses needed to be interviewed, possibly including children who survived the attack, state police Lieutenant Paul Vance said.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the gunman shot his way through a school door “using several rounds” before beginning to kill adults and children inside, then killed himself as police closed in.

“He discharged to make an opening and then went through it, went to the first classroom … went to the second classroom. We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life,” Malloy said on the ABC show “This Week.”

“This sick fellow, you know, clearly mentally ill, killed his mother, proceeded to go on and kill a great number of people,” Malloy added.

MEMORIALS DRAW MOURNERS

Townspeople and visitors took solace in church on Sunday. Mass at St. Rose Catholic church was packed. The priest’s announcements included news that the Christmas pageant rehearsal would go on as planned, but without 6-year-old Olivia Engel, killed on Friday before she could play the role of an angel.

Makeshift memorials appeared in this affluent town of 27,000 people about 80 miles (130 km) from New York City. The largest, festooned with flowers and teddy bears, sat at the end of Dickenson Drive where Sandy Hook Elementary stands.

As children walked down the street in the rain, carrying their toys and signs, a man sat on the back of his parked car playing a mournful tune on a violin to accompany them.

“This is a time to come together,” said Carina Bandhaver, 43, who lives in nearby Southbury.

The children who survived will not have to return to the scene of the massacre. They will attend classes at an unused school in a Connecticut town about 7 miles (11 km) away, school officials said. Classes elsewhere in the town will resume on Tuesday, except at Sandy Hook.

GUN DEBATE

Several Democratic lawmakers called for a new push for U.S. gun restrictions on Sunday, including a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the author of an assault-weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, said she would introduce new legislation this week.

Gun rights advocates have countered that Connecticut already has among the strictest gun laws in the nation.

Police were trying to establish the relationship between Adam Lanza, Nancy Lanza and the school, and whether the mother and her sons were frequent visitors to gun ranges, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

In addition to the military-style Bushmaster assault rifle, a civilian version of the weapon used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, police said Lanza carried Glock 10 mm and Sig Sauer 9 mm handguns into the school.

Nancy Lanza legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock, handguns commonly used by police, in addition to the long gun, according to law enforcement officials.

Lanza had struggled at times to fit into the community and his mother pulled him out of school for several years to home-school him, said Louise Tambascio, the owner of My Place Restaurant, where his mother was a long-time patron.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.