At memorial, Obama pledges effort to reduce gun violence

NEWTOWN, Conn./WASHINGTON Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:26pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a vigil held at Newtown High School for families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a vigil held at Newtown High School for families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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NEWTOWN, Conn./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, speaking at a memorial service for the victims of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, said on Sunday the United States was not doing enough to protect its children and pledged to launch an effort to reduce violence.

"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change," Obama said at a somber interfaith service.

"In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said. "Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine."

The comments were among Obama's strongest on gun violence, but he stopped short - again - of issuing an explicit call for gun control or reform that would curtail gun owners' rights.

Similar to previous speeches at similarly tragic events, Obama was not specific in saying how his renewed effort to reduce violence would play out.

But his remarks did suggest where he would start: by mentioning mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, and educators, the president carefully refrained from taking on gun enthusiasts and their powerful lobbyists.

He also made clear - perhaps in a nod to conservative Democrats and Republicans who are wary of rhetoric supporting gun control - that the cause of gun violence like that in Connecticut was complex.

"We will be told that the causes of such violence will be complex and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society," he said.

"But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this."

And in a nod to anti-gun activists, the president suggested - at least implicitly - a that the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms should not prevent action on the wider problem.

"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?" he asked.

Obama has called for changes to federal gun laws before, including offering support for a renewed ban on assault weapons.

An earlier ban expired in 2004, and the president reiterated his backing for a new one in an October debate with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But during his first term, Obama disappointed anti-gun activists by not making a more aggressive push to make guns less easily available in much of the country. After a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin this summer, the president said such events were happening with "too much regularity" but also stopped short of calling for new gun control laws.

On Friday, the day of the Connecticut shooting, Obama seemed to indicate a higher priority for dealing with gun violence and a desire to navigate the issue's tricky political implications.

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said.

His remarks on Sunday echoed that call.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Connecticut and Mark Felsenthal in Washington; Editing by Philip Barbara and Jackie Frank)

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Comments (2)
retired2001 wrote:
I read many comments about “guns not killing people, people kill people”.

The reality is that People kill people with the aid of a lethal weapon, let it be with bare hands or an explosive belt.

The issue here is how effective is the killing instrument. An assault weapon, which is specifically designed as an offensive weapon capable of killing en mass, is far more effective than a baseball bat.

lets get real here folks, Assault style weapons should not be available to the general public. it has absolutely no value as a self-defense tool.

I agree that mentally disturbed individuals are usually the ones that commit such atrocities. I have never heard if a known criminal go off on a shooting rampage killing indiscriminately.

I hear the argument of “arming” more good guys to stop the bad ones is purely mental fantasy. even if that were the case, do you think that a perpetrator who is heavily armed with an assault type weapon is going to announce his/her presence and say ” hi, I’m here to kill you all”

We cannot completely stop these senseless killings but we can start by banning assault type weapons, which happens to be the weapon of choice for loonies.

Dec 17, 2012 12:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
txguy2112 wrote:
First off you have to properly define this vague concept of “assault weapon”. If I take a baseball bat, rock, or pointed stick and assault you with it then it becomes an “assault weapon”. In 1776 the Brown Bess musket would have been an assault weapon. Before the straw man about private ownership of nuclear weapons gets trotted out I disagree with even governments having the. The concept of the 2nd ammendment was to allow citizens to be able to act as irregular troops in time of need (i.e. militias) and at that time the citizenry had in many cases better weapons than the military because many civilians had rifles while the military had smoothbore muskets. Citizens could own artillery pieces in those days and it was not uncommon for a wealthy individual to fully equip a militia unit in his area (that is why there were so many wealthy colonels in the south).

Dec 17, 2012 7:32am EST  --  Report as abuse
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