Tearful Obama calls for 'meaningful action'

2012-12-15 09:01

Washington - Choking up and wiping away tears, President Barack Obama said on Friday that "our hearts are broken" for the victims of a deadly shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school and called for "meaningful action" to curb gun violence.

"We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years," Obama said during a sombre televised appearance in the White House briefing room just hours after one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

Pausing to collect himself as he expressed "overwhelming grief" as a parent, Obama deplored the "heinous" attack by a heavily armed gunman who killed at least 27 people, including 20 children and himself, at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Obama, who has responded to previous shooting massacres by citing the need for a national conversation about gun violence, again stopped short of calling for tougher gun-control laws, considered politically risky in a country known for its flourishing gun culture.

'Regardless of the politics'

But, little more than a month after his decisive re-election to a second term, he suggested that in the aftermath of Friday's tragedy he might be open to considering a less cautious approach.

"As a country, we have been through this too many times," Obama said, ticking off a list of recent shootings.

"And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said, in an apparent reference to the influence of the National Rifle Association, a powerful pro-gun lobby, in Congress.

Obama avoided making direct calls for gun control during his bitterly fought campaign for a second term, which he secured in the November 6 election.

But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs a coalition of mayors on gun-control policy, urged the Democratic president to tackle the issue despite likely opposition from Republicans who control the US House of Representatives.

"We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today," Bloomberg said.

Outside the White House gates, about 200 people rallied on Friday evening in favour of gun restrictions. "No more lives shattered by gun violence," read one placard.

Meantime, partisan bickering in Washington, divided as much as ever before by a battle over a looming "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts, was put on hold on Friday amid mourning for the dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Obama ordered flags at federal buildings to be lowered to half-mast and he cancelled an official trip to Maine scheduled for Wednesday. There was no immediate word from the White House on when the president might visit Connecticut to console grieving families.

Innocence 'torn away' from children

"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," Obama said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"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," he said.

Obama, who has two young daughters, looked grim when he entered the briefing room, and he paused and blinked hard after mentioning the ages of the dead children - from 5 to 10 years old.

"I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do," he said.

Obama raised a finger and dabbed at the corner of his eye on several occasions. While speaking, he set his jaw several times. At the end of his statement, there was a tear visible below his left eye and that side of his face was slightly wet.

Obama has issued public statements before in the aftermath of shooting massacres.

Following the killing of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in early August, he said such incidents should prompt soul-searching by all Americans.

But when asked then whether he would push for further gun-control measures in the wake of the shootings, Obama said only that he wanted to bring together leaders at all levels of American society to examine ways to curb gun violence.

The president has said he supports the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons sales, but he did little in his first term to advance it.

Asked about gun control on Friday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters that the immediate aftermath of the Connecticut shooting was not the right time for policy debates.

  • kortbroek.duplessis - 2012-12-15 09:04

    Gosh he is a good actor. Think Hollywood gave him some lessons. Zuma can do with a few pointers too Politicians just cracks me up

      frederick.nel - 2012-12-15 09:44

      Some people just have no heart like you kortbroek, no comment on the shooting instead you attack Obama? I feel for these people and cant imagine what it must be like to lose my child. We would be lucky to have a president like this. - 2012-12-15 09:53

      "...gunman who killed at least 27 people, including 20 children and himself, ..." So Obama is crying because he was also shot? I'm crying because of the bad journalism.

      gavin.kelly.710 - 2012-12-15 10:24

      What a stupid thing to say - maybe your pants are not the only short thing and you compensate by blurbing rubbish - if you are a parent you will know what pain would accompany the early loss of a child - hou jou bek kortbroek

      christelle.theron.3 - 2012-12-15 20:27

      We have become a nation of cynical disrespectful people!!!! Look at what some you guys are saying..........are you not ashamed of yourselves. This is about a horrendous tragedy and you carry on like self-righteous morons!

      hellodanie - 2012-12-16 05:12

      Why must the first comment on this sad story be so stupid, stupid, stupid? This type of stupid comment is what often still gives us Afrikaners a bad name in the World. So sad and just so stupid. Obama is the complete opposite of this: Good, clever, kind, humble and a true world hero.

      aniken.vader.31 - 2012-12-16 09:35

      Just want to understand one thing. In the usa these guys can purchase so many guns and even automatic ones. Just what on earth would they need an automatic gun for???? Doesnt these kind of purchases place these individuals on some sort of radar??? And so many guns allowed???? For one individual???

  • Tiyani - 2012-12-15 09:08

    Wow. Our beloved president would had mumbled up some rubbish to save him in Mangaung. Condolences to the famalies in the US.

      morrisn2 - 2012-12-15 09:33

      Ur comment is shallow and naive, instead of expressing ur feelings abt the incident at hand u revert 2 ur hatred 4 Zuma, its abt life lost in USA nt bout wht Zuma would hv said, u mst think b4 u say somthng, im sho u smarter thn that! Grw up ppl!

      nhlanhla.keyter - 2012-12-15 09:59

      Tiyani, you did you take your medication? Leave Zuma out of this tragedy. 20 young kids are murdered and you start talking about Zuma. You are indeed sick. Go take your medication.

  • jurgen.eksteen - 2012-12-15 09:39

    You dumb@zz!! He has children of his own and knows what those parents must be going through. It means that his heart has not hardened like yours and is still able to be shocked at the cruelty and disregard of human life by some people.

  • Belinda Badenhorst-Kayne - 2012-12-15 09:48

    It is horrific what had happened. Although we will never understand & questions never answered, God was with those who were killed & held those who survived. God comes to those in time of fear & death. Never forget that.

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-12-15 11:21

      Yeah sure, god was with them while they were being shot; didn't stop the bullets...

  • mshiniboys - 2012-12-15 09:57

    I dont blame him...unlike our leaders here, he cares more about people than tax money and I do not think he will ever be embarassed about having cried.he is not in that position to score women and money.he is for his country and the people.I salute you deep in my heart Barak.History will honour your leadership if you take of the people.You are a true reflection of Africa.You are a true man.

  • Leon Marais - 2012-12-15 10:10

    ag please, wipe away his tears. all the people working with the illuminati want this to happen. total chaos. thats what they strife towards. illuminati puppet.

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-12-16 10:29

      Nope, its definitely the Annunaki...

  • Stewart Croucamp - 2012-12-15 10:17

    Restricting gun laws will not stop these killings. I want a gun to defend myself from criminals in this country. Even if I have to obtain it illegally.

      mshiniboys - 2012-12-15 10:31

      And you have a particular race in your mind that you want to obtain the gun for you idiot!

      Stewart Croucamp - 2012-12-15 10:43

      If your race is the criminals, they will get the bullet idiot.

      goldwright - 2012-12-16 12:09

      @mshini - a criminal is a criminal, regardless of the race, are you unable to see that. I don't have a gun, - but if a criminal broke into my house, and tried to attack me I would do EVERYTHING to defend myself, regardless of the race of the perp. That said, seeing YOU mshini, made a comment about gun control into a racial issue, let's be honest here, 90 percent or so of this country is populated by a particular race so we can pretty much assume that chances are 90% we will be victims of that particular race. Just for the record, in the 15 years I have been living in my home, there has been numerous times when intruders have been in our yard, late at night, have climed over gates and walls (and I don't even live in an upmarket area) - and we have seen with our own eyes that they are of ONE particular majority race. Cowards all of them, because they've all run when we shout at them and the dog barks at them. That ALL said, RIP, to the victims of those shootings. And rest in peace to EVERY innnocent person who has died at the hands of a violent criminal, regardless of race.

  • SarelJBotha - 2012-12-15 10:55

    Perhaps he should revisit the lefty, liberal views that is the real cause of this type of violence. He is a supporter of that ideology and thus also indirectly the cause of this massacre.

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-12-15 11:22

      You want a dictatorship? Because that is what you are asking for.

  • ze.mac.58 - 2012-12-15 11:52

    kortbroek its children you idiot.

  • ze.mac.58 - 2012-12-15 12:00

    f the politics think of the children who are traumitised,hurt,scared by the shooting forget about yourselfs for once and look at the bigger picture

  • michael.i.wright - 2012-12-15 12:32

    Any word on whether his buddy Eric "my peeps" Holder supplied the guns?

  • simon.mwando - 2012-12-15 14:15

    That's an American dream,don't cry!

  • ad.madock - 2012-12-15 16:27

    You can be who you are but if your a true parent (not just sperm donor) you will understand the pain of another parent losing a child.

  • diana.gill.18 - 2012-12-15 16:59

    That is what happens when the so called leader of the country neglects his own citizens and wastes tons of money instead of improving living conditions for the ones who elected him into position. He can cry as much as he wants to the pleasure of soapie lovers but it would hardly help to bring the lost lives back...and his tears do not touch anyone.

      warren.slater.353 - 2012-12-15 18:08

      What a load of rubbish. This is what happens when spoilt brat's who've never endured any real hardship and had everything handed to them on a plate get upset\depressed when faced with real life problems and decide others must pay for their unhappiness. It's a product of self-entitlement. Like your attitude that Obama's partially responsible for this deed, it seems so many young people think others are responsible for their own misfortunes and must fix it or innocents must pay.

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-12-15 20:37

      Oh well, then probably you know the answer to the question why shooting rampages like this are having place so frequently only in America and nowhere else? Who is raising up those spoilt brats and has raised up their parents or maybe they all were born as serial killers? Who has seeded their brains with an idea that whatever they want is right and possible, no importance at what cost? You trying to say they were getting their enlightenment strait from god almighty or what?

      michael.i.wright - 2012-12-16 11:26

      Diana, this is not a new phenomena and in no way confined to the USA.

  • kagiso.sebolai - 2012-12-15 18:15

    I dont know why he is crying because he bombs innocent people everyday...............everything is a joke if it doesn't happen to you...

  • hellodanie - 2012-12-16 05:15

    'The right to bear arms' is about as outdated as 'the right to hit your wife if she does not cook well (4000 years ago.....)' or 'the right to bear swords'. Come on US - this can't go on. It is too sad.

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