As officials continue to investigate the Sandy Hook School shooting – and as residents of the small Newtown, Connecticut, community search for answers to their own perhaps more profound questions – leaders and others from around the world weighed in on what seemed to many to be a typically American tragedy.
In a message beginning "Dear President Obama," Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth said, "I have been deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the dreadful loss of life today in Newtown, Connecticut; particularly the news that so many of the dead are children."
"The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth are with the families and friends of those killed and with all those who have been affected by today's events," the Queen said.
"My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said. “It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them.”
With more than 100,000 Chinese studying in US schools, a sense of shared grief came through.
"Parents with children studying in the US must be tense. School shootings happen often in the U.S. Can't politicians put away politics and prohibit gun sales?" Zhang Xin, a wealthy property developer, wrote on her feed on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, where she has 4.9 million followers.
In the Philippines, a society often afflicted by gun violence, President Benigno Aquino III said he and the Filipino people stand beside the United States "with bowed heads, yet in deep admiration over the manner in which the American people have reached out to comfort the afflicted, and to search for answers that will give meaning and hope to this grim event.
"We pray for healing, and that this heartbreak will never be visited on any community ever again," Aquino said in a statement tweeted by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte.
In Thailand, which has one of Asia's highest rates of murder by firearms and has seen schools attacked by Islamist insurgents in its southern provinces, a columnist for the English-language daily newspaper The Nation blamed American culture for fostering a climate of violence.
"Repeated incidents of gunmen killing innocent people have shocked the Americans or us, but also made most people ignore it quickly," Thanong Khanthong wrote on Twitter. "Intentionally or not, Hollywood and video games have prepared people's mind to see killings and violence as normal and acceptable," he wrote.
In the United States, House Speaker John Boehner issued this statement:
“The horror of this day seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil. Let us all come together in God’s grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering. Let us give thanks for all those who helped get people to safety, and take heart from their example. The House of Representatives – like every American – stands ready to assist the people of Newtown, Connecticut.”
While President Obama and most members of Congress stayed away from gun control – at least for now – some prominent local and state officials did not hesitate to make the connection between a pattern of mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s gun culture.
“As a Mayor who has witnessed too many lives forever altered by gun violence, it is my responsibility to fight for action,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. “Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighborhoods and the tragedies like today out of our future."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had a similar message: “There are a lot of unanswered questions right now, but one thing is clear – there’s too much gun violence in our country. These shootings are becoming all too common, and it’s too easy for dangerous people to get the weapons that help them perform mass executions like today’s.”
One of the most outspoken in this regard has been New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek,” he said. “This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.”
“As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right. This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.