- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2012

Wiping away tears and choking back his emotions, President Obama said Friday the mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., require the country to “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

“As a country we have been through this too many times, whether it’s 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,” Mr. Obama said on television from the White House press briefing room.

The president wiped tears from his eyes several times as he spoke, and he paused for several seconds to collect himself as he tried to speak about the victims in Connecticut — “beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old.”

“I know there’s not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” Mr. Obama said, his voice thick with emotion.

Although he didn’t mention any specific actions the federal government might take in the wake of the shootings, Mr. Obama described a string of mass shootings that have taken place during his administration, ending with Friday’s shootings that left at least 27 dead, including 18 children, according to officials.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama still supports renewing a ban on assault-style rifles, but said Friday was not the day to get into debates over gun-control laws.

But gun-control activists in and out of Congress immediately seized on the incident to argue now was the time to consider stricter laws against firearms.

“Yet another unstable person has gotten access to firearms and committed an unspeakable crime against innocent children. We cannot simply accept this as a routine product of modern American life,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. “If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is.”

But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, warned against a snap reaction in the wake of the tragedy.

“We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place. I think we have to be careful about suggesting new gun laws,” she said. “We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books.”

After a gunman killed 12 people in July at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., Mr. Obama said “there are going to be other days for politics.” He has spoken in the past of the need to take a community-wide approach to reducing violence, and has resisted many calls from the left to pursue stricter gun laws aggressively.

The president said the country has “endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.”

“Each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would, as a parent,” Mr. Obama said. “That was especially true today. A majority of those who died today were children — “and he stopped, sighing audibly.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” the president said. “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.”

To show “respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence,” the president ordered U.S. flags to be flow at half-staff on all public buildings, military posts, naval vessels and U.S. diplomatic posts until sunset on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama was informed of the shooting around 10:30 a.m. by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, White House officials said. He spoke during the day with Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The White House also announced that in response to the shootings, Mr. Obama was canceling a planned trip to Portland, Maine, on Wednesday, in which the president was to have drummed up support for his plan to raise taxes on wealthier families.

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