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Obama to join mourning Connecticut families in search for answers

Following the mass shooting that killed 20 children in Connecticut, President Barack Obama arrives in the state on Sunday to mourn the dead and console the survivors

Reuters , Sunday 16 Dec 2012
Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington December 14, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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President Barack Obama arrives in Connecticut on Sunday to mourn the dead and console the survivors of a gunman's rampage that killed 20 children, all 6 and 7 years old, after he forced his way into their school and shot them multiple times.

Governor Dannel Malloy on Sunday became the latest public figure to call for new gun control measures following Friday's rampage that left 28 dead, including the gunman who used high-powered firearms.

"These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things," Malloy said on the CNN program "State of the Union."

Obama's appearance at an interfaith vigil in the once-tranquil town of Newtown will be watched closely for clues as to what he meant when he called for "meaningful action" to prevent such tragedies in the wake of the massacre on Friday.

The president arrives after authorities released the names of the dead on Saturday and more details emerged about the victims and the rampage itself.

After killing his mother at home, Adam Lanza, 20, forced his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and started firing at the children, most if not all with a powerful rifle - a military-style Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine - at close range. He also killed six adult women at the school and himself, putting the death toll at 28.

Though Americans have seen many mass shootings over the years, the victims have rarely been so young.

Malloy, referring to the shooter, said: "We know that he was a troubled individual, and that he went to school with a number of weapons which he used on his victims and ultimately used on himself. ... I'm sure we'll come to know more about him and his problems and his family."

Nancy Lanza legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock, both handguns commonly used by police, and the military-style Bushmaster long gun, according to law enforcement officials.

Those weapons were the ones used by her son in the massacre.

"The mother purchased them. And they have the patina of legal purchases. I mean, there's always a question: was she purchasing them for herself? ... If she was purchasing them for another individual, her son, then there's a question about that purchase," the governor said.

On Saturday, some Democratic lawmakers called for sweeping new gun-control measures, a move certain to encounter forceful opposition from the nation's pro-gun lobby.

Malloy, a Democrat, added his voice to the gun-control calls on Sunday. U.S. lawmakers have not approved a major new gun law since 1994, and they let a ban on certain semiautomatic rifles known as assault weapons expire in 2004.

Malloy lamented that the assault ban was allowed to lapse. He also said a lot of guns used in crimes in his state were actually purchased in other states and brought to Connecticut.

"Connecticut has a pretty aggressive law. Probably of the 50 states, I think we're ranked fourth most aggressive in trying to limit access to these kinds of weapons," the governor said.

Pope Benedict expressed his pain over the killings, telling crowds of pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square in Vatican City on Sunday he was "deeply saddened."

"I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain," the pope said. "Upon those affected by this tragedy, and upon each of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings!"

An appalled and grieving nation learned more about the dead.

 

Olivia Engel had a part in a nativity play at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. "She was supposed to be an angel in the play. Now she's an angel up in heaven," Monsignor Robert Weiss told a packed crowd at the church before the play on Saturday.

Emilie Parker, another of the child victims, was studying Portuguese with her father, Robbie Parker, who opened up about his daughter in an emotional news conference in which he turned both glowing and teary.

"As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was and how many lives she was able to touch in her short time here on Earth," Parker said.

"This world is a better place because she has been in it," he said.

Vicki Leigh Soto, 27, saved her first-grade students' lives by putting herself between the kids and the gunman. Britain's Independent on Sunday newspaper splashed her photo on its front page with the caption "The Heroine of Sandy Hook."

School district officials said classes would resume Tuesday, except at Sandy Hook. As of Saturday night, they were still working on a plan for how and where to let the school's kindergarten-through-fourth-grade classes resume.

 

STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

Obama was scheduled to speak at a vigil at 7 p.m. local time (0000 GMT on Monday) in the affluent town of 27,000 people about 80 miles (130 km) from New York City.

Police said on Saturday they had assembled "some very good evidence" on the killer's motives but revealed little.

Lanza had struggled at times to fit into the community and his mother Nancy 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.

His father, Peter Lanza, issued a statement saying the family was in a "state of disbelief."

"We too are asking why," the statement said.

The death toll exceeded that of one of the most notorious U.S. school shootings, the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two teenagers killed 13 students and staff before fatally shooting themselves.

At Virginia Tech, a Blacksburg, Virginia university where in 2007 a gunman killed 32 people in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, an announcer extended sympathies to the residents of Newtown before a basketball game on Saturday.

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