“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” Mr. Obama said from the White House briefing room. “And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would – as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. “
Obama, the father of two school-age daughters, spoke hours after a gunman rampaged through Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults. Among the reported dead was the suspect’s mother, a teacher at the school. The suspected gunman, identified in news reports as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also died. It was the second-worst school shooting in US history.
The president also called for “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” though he did not offer specifics. At the end of his remarks, a somber press corps remained silent as he left the briefing room.
Earlier in the day, at his regular briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked whether it's time for a discussion about gun-control policy. “I think that day will come, but today’s not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation,” he said.
Foremost, it was a day of shock and grief and questions. During his remarks, Obama took several long pauses to collect himself, speaking mostly about the victims.
“The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said. “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."
He continued, “So our hearts are broken today – for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.”
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” Obama said. “Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago – these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.”
The president said he had spoken with Connecticut’s governor, Dannel Malloy (D), and with FBI Director Robert Mueller. He said he made clear to Governor Malloy that he will have every resource he needs to investigate the crime, care for the victims, and counsel their families. Before Obama’s briefing room appearance, the White House issued a proclamation honoring the victims and ordering that flags on public buildings be flown at half-staff.