* Emotional remarks could be indication of more action
* No specific mention of gun control
By Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal
NEWTOWN, Conn./WASHINGTON, Dec 16 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
"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
"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.