Accessibility links

Breaking News

First Burials After U.S. School Massacre


U.S. President Barack Obama prays during a vigil held at Newtown High School for families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Families in Newtown, Connecticut, have begun burying some of the victims of the December 14 school massacre that left 20 small children and six staffers dead.

On December 17, the first funerals were planned for two 6-year-old boys who were among those killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police have confirmed that the rampage was carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Police said Lanza was armed with two handguns and a rifle and hundreds of bullets.

Police also confirmed that Lanza killed his mother before the massacre and shot himself to death as emergency responders arrived at the school.

At a vigil in Newtown on December 16, U.S. President Barack Obama offered the United States' “love and prayers” to the families of the 26 victims.

In his remarks, Obama said the United States was not doing enough to protect its children and that it must change its culture of gun violence.

“Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depth of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts,” Obama said.

He noted it was the fourth time that he has visited a community to comfort family members of victims of a shooting massacre in his four years in office.

"Since I've been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims," he said.

"And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America."

'We Must Change'

Obama called for the United States to change its culture of gun violence, saying the “tragedies must end” and that “we must change.”

"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," he said.

"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 or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society," he added. "But that can’t be an excuse for inaction."

Obama pledged renewed action to prevent future bloodshed but gave few details.

“In the coming weeks I’ll 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," he said.

"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?”

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, from Obama’s Democratic Party, has announced she will introduce a bill in Congress in January to ban assault weapons like those used in many U.S. shootings.

Members of the Republican Party are opposed to tightening gun-control laws, saying such laws will not prevent deranged people from carrying out massacres and would infringe on U.S. gun-ownership freedoms.

With reporting by AP and AFP
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.