NEW YORK - Police have not yet released all the names of the victims of a mass shooting at an elementary school in the northeastern state of Connecticut, but some reports have emerged on school staff slain as they tried to protect the children. The massacre has renewed calls for stronger gun control laws in the U.S.
Hundreds of Newtown, Connecticut residents attended an evening vigil for the 20 young children and six adults killed Friday at a local elementary school.
The suspected gunman, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot and killed himself. He had earlier allegedly shot to death his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home in Newtown.
Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung and a school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, were among the dead. A witness said the two had rushed to the aid of children when gunfire was heard in the hallway.
First-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who reportedly tried to shield her children with her body, also died. Other teachers, including Kaitlin Roig, were able to barricade children behind locked doors.
“I’m thinking I have to almost be their parent, like I have to tell them -- so I said to them, ‘I need you to know that I love you all very much, and that it’s going to be okay,’ because I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear," said Roig. "I thought we were all going to die.”
The massacre of young children renewed calls for gun control in the U.S., where more than 10,000 people are murdered with guns each year. Police said the school killer had three assault-style guns, all legally registered to his mother.
At the White House, President Obama wiped away tears and said that “as a country, we’ve been through this too many times.”
“These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children," said Obama. "And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
Protesters outside the White House, and several politicians, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, chair of a gun control advocacy group, demanded immediate action. In a statement, Mayor Bloomberg said, “We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress.”
A pro-gun group, The National Rifle Association, is a major contributor to many members of Congress. Political observers say its power is the primary reason for the absence of strong gun-control laws in the U.S. The NRA contends that laws limiting guns infringe on citizens’ Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.