President Barack Obama today signaled he would push for tight gun control in the wake of the massacre of 26 at an elementary school in Connecticut, saying there had been “too many” mass shootings in America.
During a moving appearance, the president said the time had come to “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics”.
Barack Obama struggled for words, pausing several times as he wept and described the “beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old” slaughtered in the school massacre in Connecticut.
Seldom has a head of state expressed greater public emotion in modern times. White House aides held hands and also wept as they sat in the briefing room named after James Brady, the press aide wounded in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan was shot and who later became the nation’s leading gun control advocate.
Barack Obama was not the only one who showed deep emotion over the shooting. Parents lined up at schools across the country to pick up their children and make sure they made it home safely.
School administrators from Washington D.C. to Boston and Iowa issued statements assuring parents that they had stepped up security and that their schools were still safe.
In Charlestown, Massachusetts, Bob Carr showed up early at the elementary school his three daughters attend. He told the Boston Globe he wanted to be there when they got out of class.
Parents have already begun asking for more police officers and security guards to be posted at their children’s school.
In Washington, political meringue has also begun.
Behind the President’s emotion was a clear political message that Barack Obama, re-elected to a second and final presidential term, intended to limit the lawful possession of weapons, perhaps by pushing to reinstate the Clinton-era ban on so-called assault weapons.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” Barack Obama said.
“And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
“The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
“So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.
“Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.”
Again, Barack Obama repeated that such events had happened “too many times”, citing other mass shootings. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children.
“And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
That was a thinly-veiled message to Republicans, as well as conservative Democrats, that support for the Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms should not be allowed to stand in the way of banning certain types of weapons or limiting background checks.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a prominent advocate of gun control, issued a statement on Friday criticizing the president Congress for failing to take action on the issue.
“President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem,” Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
“Calling for <<meaningful action>> is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress.”
The gun control debate was reignited in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s shooting, as every major TV network gathered panels of journalists and gun control experts to discuss the political implications for Washington.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named after James Brady and one of the largest national organizations promoting stricter firearm laws, was urging people on Friday to sign an online petition supporting their cause.
“Another day, another horrific shooting eating away at our collective peace of mind – this time at a school in Connecticut,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross.
“What matters is not what we do after the sensational tragedies. It’s what we do between them – to make the voice of the American public heard.”
Americans are split on whether the U.S. needs greater controls on the sales and licensing of guns.
In fact, since 1990, more and more Americans believe that gun control laws should be less strict.
“The percentage in favor of making the laws governing the sale of firearms <<more strict>> fell from 78% in 1990 to 62% in 1995, and 51% in 2007,” Gallup reported.
“In the most recent reading, Gallup in 2010 found 44% in favor of stricter laws. In fact, in 2009 and again last year, the slight majority said gun laws should either remain the same or be made less strict.”
Barack Obama was forced to address the issue of gun control during the 2012 election campaign after a lone gunman – former neuroscience graduate student James Holmes – opened fire on a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.