News / USA

Obama Speaks at Interfaith Vigil in Newtown, Connecticut

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a vigil held at Newtown High School for families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a vigil held at Newtown High School for families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.
Michael Bowman
U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to use all his power to make sure that tragedies like Friday's killing of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school are never repeated.

Obama joined mourners Sunday night in the northeastern town of Newtown, Connecticut where a gunman's rampage killed the 26 people.  He told those gathered for a nighttime vigil for the victims that they are not alone in their grief.  The president said people across the country are mourning with them.

Obama said the nation is left with hard questions after the shooting.  He noted this was the fourth mass shooting incident that has occurred since the start of his presidency almost four years ago.

"We can't tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world and prevent every single act of violence in our society.  But that can't be an excuse for inaction."

Earlier in the evening, the president met privately with the families of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and to thank the first responders to the tragedy.

Grieving residents of Newtown, Connecticut flocked to places of worship Sunday.  Robbie Parker paid tribute to his six-year-old daughter, Emilie, who was gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"She was an exceptional artist.  And she always carried around her markers and pencils, so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card.  She was a mentor to her two little sisters, delighting in teaching them how to read, dance, and find the simple joys of life," said Robbie Parker.

Parents of surviving students share in the heartbreak.  Lynn Wasik, whose daughter Alexis studies at Sandy Hook, spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"I think I am still very numb," she said. "There is no way to make any sense of anything this person has done, not only to families, but [also] to a community, to a nation."

The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is believed to have killed his mother at home before shooting his way into the school.

Accounts of heroism have emerged, of unarmed school administrators and teachers rushing Lanza and placing their bodies between the gunman and panicked children in their care.

Lanza, who was armed with guns belonging to his mother, took his own life after a 10-minute rampage at Sandy Hook.  It was the latest in a series of mass-shooting incidents the United States has suffered in recent years, one that has sparked calls for tighter restrictions on firearms in the United States.


  • Stuffed animals and a sign calling for prayer rest at the base of a tree near the Newtown Village Cemetery in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 17, 2012.
  • A student looks for a place to leave flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at the entrance of Newtown High School December 18, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • Barbara Wells of Shelton, Conn., holds her daughter Olivia, 3, as she pays her respects Dec. 17, 2012 at one of the makeshift memorials for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
  • First Burials for Newtown Victims Amid Profound Sadness
  • Frank Kulick, adjusts a display of wooden crosses, and a Jewish Star of David, representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, on his front lawn in Newtown, Conn., December 17, 2012.
  • Mourners grieve at one of the makeshift memorials for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, December 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.
  • Names of victims are displayed on a flag in the business area in Newtown, Connecticut, December 16, 2012.
  • A child's message rests with a memorial for shooting victims, December 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.
  • A memorial is seen along the road to Sandy Hook Elementary School a day after a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 15, 2012.
  • A sign and a U.S. national flag are seen near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • This photo posted to the Emilie Parker Fund Facebook page shows six-year-old Emilie Parker, who was gunned down in Friday's school shooting in Connecticut.
  • Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, speaks during a news conference on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.
  • This undated photo shows Adam Lanza posing for a group photo of the technology club which appeared in the Newtown High School yearbook.
  • A man bows his head as he stands at a makeshift memorial, outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • Elizabeth Bogdanoff, left, kisses her daughter Julia, 13, during a prayer service at St John's Episcopal Church on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.
  • People grieve next to a makeshift memorial of flowers and balloons next to the Sandy Hook Elementary school sign in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Dec. 15, 2012.
  • A woman covers her mouth as others look on stand near candles outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
  • A young girl is given a blanket after being evacuated from Sandy Hook Elementary School following a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec.14, 2012.

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"Are there guns that really should not be sold across America?  Military assault weapons, such as the one that was involved in this horrific incident in Connecticut?  Are there high-capacity ammunition clips that really have no value whatsoever when it comes to sporting, hunting, even self-defense?" asked Durbin.

Gun rights supporters say the answer is not to infringe on Americans’ right to bear arms.  Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert, who also appeared on Fox, said, "A free people should be an armed people.  It ensures against the tyranny of the government," he said.

Gohmert argued that the problem is not a nation awash in firearms, but a citizenry that is not armed enough.  He said lives could have been saved at Sandy Hook if teachers carried guns to school.

"Hearing the heroic stories of the principal, I wish to God she had had an M-4 [assault rifle] in her office.  So when she hears gunfire, she pulls it out, so she would not have to lunge, heroically, with nothing in her hands," he said.

About half of U.S. households have at least one gun.  There are more than 200 million privately-owned firearms in the nation.  Friday, President Obama spoke of the need to address gun violence, but did not lay out any immediate recommendations for doing so.

Related video by Pete Fedynsky

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 17, 2012 9:53 AM
I'm sure Obama could solve this problem, reguration of gun possession and use. This problem is equal to the slavery system. The second civil war would be needed now in America in order to become a really developed county. We should learn more not how to doubt others but how to trust others. When we could abandon nuclear weapons first ourselves ahead of others, we could have others achieve the same conduct. What we need is courage enough to through away our distrust to others, our sin. Obama could become, no should become, no must become Lincoln!! American people should notice there are many countries where people need not to protect with guns each others. Why you intelligent nation cannot achieve making such gun-free society?

by: BWE from: Winnipeg
December 17, 2012 2:16 AM
I cannot for the life of me understand or comprehend the view that bigger and better weapons are needed in the hands of ordinary citizens. What's next? Should every home be permitted a nuclear bomb? What's lacking is simple common sense and the respect for human life. As a civilization we are at the hearts and mind stage. There is no logical and reasonable explanation for the permitting of ordinary citizens to own assault weapons. A hunting rifle and shotgun will do fine for feeding your family, should you choose to hunt wild game to do so. A society that truly repsects its citizens wouldn't even need to lock it's doors at night. While details of the person who carried out this horrific act are few, what has been revealed shows that he may have been someone who was isolated and cut off from society because of whatever "illness" or quirks he had, and us such degraded to the dillusional state where he acted out against those who were free and included in society. This is where we, as a civilization need to do the work. If we are a compassionate, caring and inclusive society, doing our best to help such afflicted persons, perhaps we prevent them from choosing such destructive paths. Aquiring bigger and more powerful weapons is just lazy, and in the end, no matter what your spiritual inclinations, you answer to a higher power for your choices. In most religions I've studied, being lazy of mind and soul is a mortal sin. If we don't change our way of thinking, the Mayans may be proven correct sooner rather than later.

by: Trust from: Chicago
December 17, 2012 12:10 AM
I don't know why Obama was their. Almost 30 people died at the hand of a mad man. Obama with the fake tears like he really cares. Obama is going to drive a lot more people carzy. I hearth goes out to the people who lost their lives. So young so young. Just KIDS. what is wrong with people these days. BTW guns don't kill, People do. Don't blame the guns. God Bless Obama maybe I can get a free phone
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 17, 2012 11:55 AM
Here's what's wrong...

What better way to protect ourselves than with the guns themselves? We understand your logic, but it doesn't alleviate the problem. It only reduces the number of bandages. Guns have become way too powerful and illegal accessories are widely available(extended clips, incendiary ammo, silencers). Current gun laws have caused this, because they fail to secure the loopholes. Because guns have spread across the world and are so easily accessible, we can't just outlaw guns.The only way to fix this problem is to fix the loopholes, criminalize those who break the law, have better background checks, make permits necessary to purchase any gun and have them expire, and also most importantly prohibit media from releasing information about the killer(s) and the accumulated death toll. It's not going to be easy and that's what Obama was getting at last night.

by: Katherine from: Toronto, Canada
December 16, 2012 11:08 PM
If there were stricter gun laws, the boy wouldn't even have a gun

by: pateshunn from: jackson mi
December 16, 2012 10:54 PM
to the best of my knowledge president obama u are the in the world thank u for being their for all of the panters an other u have agood heart u are the best i know u have a lot on your plate but u get the job done no one can.t take your place u take action quick an fast your speech was wonerful im very about what happen in this world today we need to pray an ask god for peaces on earth

by: SRCMurthy Vanimisetti from: Hyderabad
December 16, 2012 10:15 PM
It is great to note that USA is able to protect itself from the terrorism and any outside threat. But it is very unfortunate to save itself from the inside violence. Can't they have any mechanism? Any how my sympathies with the victims and their families.

by: Nwvotes
December 16, 2012 9:57 PM
Should Sandy Hook Elementary be reopened or closed forever? Vote at

by: Reeshanand from: Pune, India
December 16, 2012 9:33 PM
Within 10 minutes almost 30 people are dead. Even after the carnage we see people like Mr. Louis Gohmert talking so heartlessly. In a free, democratic, law abiding society, does he mean to say that people must be ready with guns to fight each other and the government?! From what is seen on news, The President is doing the best he could do as President, but it seems that the gun lobby is even more powerful than The President, that he is unable to act upon his decisions. Mr. Louis Gohmert's opininon, that teachers should carry M-4 [assault rifle] is mindless pathetic for any responsible elected representative to make. Armed guards at schools would have made some sense, but teachers walking around with assault rifles, no sensible person could suggest such an option. These killings must stop, human life is more valuable, little children; the future of a nation is more valuable. This is the most critical point of time to decide which is more important! May Almighty give the strength to all the bereaved families to bear all these pains calmly and move on to a peaceful life ahead!

by: Venkat
December 16, 2012 5:53 PM
In Response

by: almoros
December 17, 2012 4:58 AM
You`re utterly right! Thank you Reeshanand!
In Response

by: pat reid from: jackson mi
December 16, 2012 11:34 PM
lets have faith in god he all we have now beside our family an friends an our president we all pray for the familys damn xmas u have your life not the kids was killed in connticut xmas is every day dont for get it i love every i dont know u i still love i have a wonderful grandmother she.s not with us any she will always be missed grandmother thaught how to love an respect people u need to do the same the world can.t be hateful for ever lets make peace no more killing put all away for good do it for the world
In Response

by: Doug from: USA
December 16, 2012 10:28 PM
Have said this before and will say this as many times as necessary here.You just cannot punish us law abiding gun owners due to the act of one crazy person.I am also for a ban on assault weapons for civilians use.The weapons I have are
2 handguns that I use for personal protection ad as well
competitive sport shooting and in the fall I use my rifles and go hunting with my friends for moose and deer.Yet you want to deny me my constitutional right to own a firearm.You must be one of those foreigners in a far away country that doesnt understand our culture and our way of life here.I can assure you that a total gun bad wont happen.

If guns are outlawed,only outlaws will have guns

by: stefanie from: NC
December 16, 2012 5:44 PM
Gun regulation or strict laws on guns is not the answer. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. These guns were not registered to this lunatic but to his mother. What is the alternative? Force everyone to relinquish their guns? That way, criminals and the truly evil will have their (unregistered black market) weaponry and feel more confident breaking into homes knowing that they most likely will have no way of defending themselves.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 17, 2012 9:20 AM
Imagine the world where there is no guns. Please imagine there exist such socities where citizens need not to protect with guns. Imagine most industrialized countries are such countries now.
In Response

by: bonnie from: MI
December 17, 2012 12:03 AM
Please stop parroting the nonsensical talking points of the NRA. This doesn't happen every few months in countries with sensible gun laws, and care for those with severe and violent forms of mental illness.
I have had it with these ridiculous arguments. By shilling for the NRA, mindlessly repeating "guns don't kill people," you are complicit in the deaths of children. Please learn to think critically and compassionately.
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs