Obama promises to use 'whatever power' against gun violence
ABOVE PHOTO: President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
By Hazel Trice Edney
On Friday morning, Dec. 14, most Americans were either contemplating last minute Christmas gifts or deeply involved in a devisive debate over how to avoid the fiscal cliff. Then suddenly, the nation found itself united in grief, joined by people around the world.
They were responding to the unthinkable act that has brought the nation to its knees at Christmas time and caused the President to cry. That is when 20 children and seven women at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were brutally murdered – all shot multiple times - by a 20-year-old gunman who then killed himself.
"The majority of those who died today were children - beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers - men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams," President Obama detailed the tragedy as tears streaked his face in the White House Press Room Dec. 14.
"As a nation, we have endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years," he continued on his Weekly Radio Address that evening. "An elementary school in Newtown. A shopping mall in Oregon. A house of worship in Wisconsin. A movie theater in Colorado. Countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia. Any of these neighborhoods could be our own. So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics."
Political observers have described the Sandy Hook massacre as a "tipping point" for President Obama and Congress to finally discuss the gun control issue as well as mental health issues.
It is clear by his words that this incident will be the impetus to action. Speaking at an Inter-faith Prayer Vigil in Newtown Sunday night, he promised to take swift action.
PHOTOS: Jordan Davis (L) and Trayvon Martin (R) were teens murdered this year out of anger and/or fear, by random strangers who had firearms in their possession.
"In the coming weeks, I will 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. Because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
Gun lobbies, including the politically powerful National Rifle Association, will no doubt oppose new gun laws, giving their usual argument for the Second Amendment and that it is people – not guns – that kill people. Still others will argue that the key is keeping the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It is not clear what affect new gun laws could have on the homicides in city streets that's killed hundreds of thousands since the FBI started counting homicides in the early 1970s.
Early this week, authorities said they were finding "very good evidence" in their search for a motive in the Sandy Hook killings, according to widespread reports. The questions are why Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, a former teacher at Sandy Hook; then took multiple weapons that legally belonged to her and shot his way into the locked elementary school. He then killed the school principal, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, five other teachers and administrators and 20 children. By the time the killing spree was over, 28 were dead, including Adam Lanza.
He was widely described as "troubled" by friends and acquaintances interviewed by the news media. Multiple sources told the New York Daily News that he had Asperger's syndrome or a personality disorder; that he had a tortured mind, was subject to outbursts and had a condition that caused him not to be able to feel physical pain. A former babysitter told CNN that his mother once warned him never to turn his back on the young Adam. At that time, he was about 10.
The Sandy Hook massacre comes at the end of a year with multiple mass killings. In fact, Friday's news eclipsed reports on a random shooting in an Oregon mall in which a 22-year-old killer shot and killed two people before killing himself. Police said his gun jammed, preventing more deaths. And then there was the Aurora, Col. movie theatre massacre on July 20 that killed 12 people.
President Obama pointed out that this is the fourth time during his administration that he has had to comfort grieving loved ones after mass shootings. That also includes the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford by Jared Loughner, who remains incarcerated. Six people died and 13 were injured in that shooting at a Tucson political gathering in a grocery store parking lot. On August 5, White supremacist Wade Michael Page killed six people at the Sikh Temple of Oak Creek, Wis. before killing himself.
President Obama has become known for his compassion amidst crisis – not only following mass shootings, but in disasters such as his recent visit to New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Seeking to comfort the families gathered at Sunday evening's prayer vigil he spoke these words: "...Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away...inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."
Closing his speech by calling the names of each of the children, he continued to focus on the responsibilities of those people left behind: "God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we've lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America."
+ Top Story
Charges have been dropped against three Black teens who were arrested while waiting on a school bus in Rochester, New York. “After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, I have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley in a statement Tuesday.
American students once again lag behind many of their Asian and European peers on a global exam, a continuing trend that often is blamed on child poverty and a diverse population in U.S. schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results a “picture of educational stagnation"...
An Ohio school superintendent, two coaches and a principal were charged by a grand jury that investigated whether other laws were broken in the rape of a drunken 16-year-old girl by two football players, the state’s attorney general said Monday.
The woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape was convicted of second-degree murder Friday in the stabbing death of her boyfriend. The jury deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching its verdict in the trial of 34-year-old Crystal Mangum.
Discovered in a private collection in Portland, the 1893 recording of “Mama’s Black Baby Boy” by the New York-based Unique Quartet was one of only two copies known to exist and sold for $1,100. The other resides in the Library of Congress.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday that partisan political elections for the Alabama courts appear to be driving judges' decisions to impose death sentences, overruling juries that have voted to send defendants to prison for life.
The final edition of Smiley & West, the public radio program featuring Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, will air the weekend of December 27, 2013. The show, which became best known for its controversial condemnations of President Barack Obama’s administration, ran for three years.
George Zimmerman is once again a free man after an arrest on criminal charges - but his freedom carries conditions. The former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin earlier this year was released from jail Tuesday pending...