Summary: Obama's grand promise in a humble setting
That 18-and-a-half minute-long address at a high school hall in a small town in Connecticut has the chance of being Barack Obama's most powerful speech, despite the many grand occasions he has had to speak in the past and despite the relative modesty of this one.
It was Obama at his best, yet somehow better than his best: it was a more clipped, spare speech than his usual rhetorical style. And its point was more blunt than usual:
Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Obama obviously didn't want to overtly politicise an event such as this. But perhaps he was stung by Michael Bloomberg's taunt made earlier in the day, that he could not just be "consoler-in-chief". In this address, Obama managed to do both, which takes some doing.
The reaction over the next few days will be interesting to watch, because that will dictate Obama's chances of success in the Sisyphean task of promoting gun control. But here's one reaction, from the deputy director of communications at the Republican National Committee, that suggests Obama may have touched a chord:
"Let us make our country worthy of their memory." An unimaginably daunting task. An excellent speech and impt challenge from the president— Tim Miller (@Timodc) December 17, 2012
New York's Cuomo joins gun control call
“I understand the politics and I understand the fear, but enough is enough,” Mr. Cuomo said. “This makes no sense, what we now do, and we are better than this. We are better than this. So I hope people use this moment to pause and reflect, and I hope the political leadership gets it.”
Speaking to reporters in Manhattan, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, called the shootings “every parent’s worst fear and worst nightmare.” Asked if he thought they would be a tipping point in the push for more restrictions on guns, he responded, “I hope so.”
Of course, it would be more helpful if the governors of Texas or Florida joined in.
On a day of much sadness, here's a photo released by the family of one of the victims that raises a smile:
No White House photos from family meetings. But the family of Emilie Parker, who was 6, released this on their own: twitter.com/WestWingReport…— West Wing Reports (@WestWingReport) December 17, 2012
Obama speech: key passage
A transcript of President Obama's remarks in Newtown has now been posted – and here is an extract of what might be termed the most "political" part of the speech, in which he makes an implicit call for tougher gun control:
This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we're meeting our obligations?
Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Can we claim, as a nation, that we're all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?
Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Since I've been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we've hugged survivors, the fourth time we've consoled the families of victims.
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 in big cities all across America, victims whose -- much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
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 or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.
If there's even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that's visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.
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, 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, that the politics are too hard?
Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt talks to people in Newtown watching President Obama's address to the vigil tonight:
Phil Davis, 28, watched Obama's speech in a cafe next to Sandy Hook's Christmas tree. His daughter Aubree sat with him, wrapped in a blanket.
"I thought he was speaking as a parent," he said. "He has the same feeling that those parents have because he has two kids at home."
Aubree had just turned five on Friday, Davis said.
"She's like the same age [as the child victims]. I can relate to those parents. If that was to happen to her I don't know what I would do."
Father and daughter had driven from Hartford, Connecticut, to see the tributes to the victims. Davis said Obama had struck the right tone.
"You want to always protect them but sometimes you can't."
Obama appeared to raise the issue of stricter gun controls in his speech. Many politicians have called for tougher firearms laws over the past two days.
"This type of guns are not fit" for the home, Davis said. "There needs to be more restrictions on how you store them, there should be a certain lock or something. Only [Adam Lanza's] mum should have had a key. That could be a major change.
"That could have been prevented, because those guns were not registered in his name. They were hers."
From the pool report inside the hall in Newtown:
Deep sobs were heard from several sections of the audience, as the president started to read the names of the teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
People are watching the president's speech quietly and intently, the eyes of some people are glistening with tears in the television lights.
Obama: 'Make our country worthy of their memory'
After invoking Matthew 19:14 – "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" – President Obama then reads out the first names of each of the children who were murdered at Sandy Hook school, and concludes:
God has called them all home. For those of us who remain let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.
As he read the names, there was audible sobbing throughout the hall in Newtown – and many other places around the US one imagines.
Obama: 'We can't tolerate this any more'
After his moving tribute to Newtown, Obama takes a more serious turn, asking a series of rhetorical questions: "Can we say that we, as a nation, are keeping our children safe from harm?" He eventually answers:
I've been reflecting on this the last few days and if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough – and we’ll have to change.
After noting that this is the fourth time he has had to appear at an event such as this – "Since I have been president this is the fourth time we have come together to console a community of mass shootings" – Obama says:
We can't tolerate this any more. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
If there's only one step we can take to save the life of one child, Obama asks, "then surely we have to try," to avoid future events such as Columbine and Newtown:
I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have?
Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children year after year is simply the price of our freedom?
In the coming weeks, Obama says, he will be raising the question of what can be done. This suggests that he does plan to make an effort to toughen gun control regulations, as Mike Bloomberg has urged him to.
Obama: 'Newtown, you are not alone'
"Whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide," says President Obama, having detailed the sacrifice and bravery of teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Newtown, you are not alone. We have wept with you.
There's barely a dry eye in the auditorium at this point, even after Obama slightly lightens the mood by telling the story of one student trying to cheer up a teacher by telling her: "Don't worry, I know karate."
Obama takes the stage
After remarks by Governor Dan Malloy, President Obama takes the stage in Newtown.
Earlier, the president met the families of those who were victims of the shooting. They included the grandchild of the Sandy Hook school principal, Dawn Hochsprung:
My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her. twitter.com/Chass63/status…— Cristina Hassinger (@Chass63) December 17, 2012
Here was the rundown of the multi-denominational vigil service including speakers:
Gathering and Welcome by Rev Matthew Crebbin, senior minister, Newtown Congregational Church, UCC
Scripture: Psalm 46 - Rabbi Shaul Praver, Rabbi, Congregational Adath Israel
Prayer: For Those We lost - The Rev Mel Kawakami, senior minister Newtown United Methodist Church.
Scripture, Psalm 23, Spoken together in various translations - The Rev Kathleen E. Adams-Shepard, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church.
Prayer: For the Children - The Rev Jim Solomon, Pastor, New Hope Community Church.
Reading of the Koran and Prayer - Jason Graves and Muadh Bhavnagarwala, Al-Hedaya Islamic Center.
Prayer: Emergency responders - the Rev Jane Sibley, Minister of Visitation and Spiritual Growth, Newtown United Methodist Church.
Reading/Prayer from the Baha'i Tradition, Dr John Woodall, leader, Baha'i Faith Community.
Prayer: For Councilors, Clergy and Caregivers - The Rev Leo McIlrath, Ecumenical Chaplain, Lutheran Home of Southbury.
Scripture; Romans 8 - The Rev Pastor Jack Tanner, Minister, Elder, Newtown Christian Church.
First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra
Governor Dannel P. Malloy
President Barack Obama
Prayer: For Our Community -- The Rev Monsignor Robert Weiss, Pastor, St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
Blessing/Sending: The Rev Rob Mossis, Vicar, Christ the King Lutheran Church
Closing Music: Ms Fiona Smith Sutherland, Music Minister, Trinity Episcopal Church.
President Obama attends memorial vigil
There is brief, respectful applause at the high school auditorium as President Obama enters and takes his place in the front row of seats.
A brief note about the programme tonight: there will be a series of addresses by members of the town's clergy, as well as hymns and psalms.
Finally, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy will speak, followed by the president. There is some suggestion that it could take around two hours.
Watching the live coverage, families have filled up the high school hall in Newtown, which has a capacity of around 900. The presidential podium, including a presidential seal, is set up on a stage at the front of the room, with a black backdrop. There is one US flag and one Connecticut flag behind the podium.
There is an overflow room that has been set up for people who cannot get into the main auditorium. There are also reports of long lines outside the High School of people waiting to get in.
Earlier, the White House pool reported:
The auditorium is now filling up shortly before the vigil is due to start. Adults are standing in small groups, talking to one another quietly, some are crying, some embracing, holding each other close.
Earlier, several small groups of kids were standing in groups as well, some chatting happily with their friends in contrast to the emotions shown by the adults.
Several kids were wearing "Sandy Hook School" sweat shirts, several others were in Scout uniform.
The president arrived in Connecticut just before 4pm this afternoon, and headed straight for Newtown.
A White House official told the pool reporters accompanying the president that he spent most of the time before the vigil meeting the families of the victims of those killed in the shootings, as well as first responders.
Another White House official said that the president is the primary author of his speech tonight, and worked on edits with speechwriter Cody Keenan on the flight from Washington.
Newtown pays its respects
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt is in Newtown, where the president's arrival at the interfaith vigil is awaited:
The center of Sandy Hook is blocked off to traffic but that hasn't stopped a small crowd from forming at the town's Christmas tree to pay their respects.
"I'm a mother, a parent of three," said Keisha Ruffin, 38. "So it affects me a lot. It's sad, these children and adults were brutally murdered for no apparent reason."
Ruffin placed flowers at the base of the town's Christmas tree. The area beneath was full of emotional tributes. People have left soft toys, cards and even Lego models.
Scores of people are leaving their cars nearby and walking down to the center of Sandy Hook. Many of the houses on the way had erected personal messages of support. On the lawn of one home stood 20 wooden angels. Flowers and teddy bears had been left at the base of each one.
Down at the Christmas tree in Sandy Hook, a steady stream of wellwishers added to the tributes.
"Being a parent, you know it's hard for a mother or father to lose their child's you put yourself in their shoes. It puts fear in you for your children," said Nadia Tennyson, 35. She and Ruffin, who are cousins, had driven from Randolf, Massachusetts, to be here - a two and a half hour journey.
Tennyson said she appreciated President Obama being here with families in Sandy Hook.
"It's real good for him to make it out here and be here for the families," she said. "He's not only here as a president, but also as a parent, to show his condolences."
We are awaiting President Obama's arrival and remarks at the interfaith vigil taking place in Newtown, Connecticut, where Obama will be appearing shortly, alongside Connecticut governor Dan Malloy.
Today, in Newtown, CT, President Obama met w/families of those who were lost & will speak at a vigil soon. Watch live: wh.gov/live— Jay Carney (EOP) (@PressSec) December 17, 2012
Newtown shooting: latest developments
As President Obama travels to Connecticut, here's a summary of the latest news:
• Connecticut state police formally identified Adam Lanza for the first time as the gunman who carried out the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, and confirmed that Lanza committed suicide within the school.
• Authorities also confirmed that Lanza's principal weapon during the attack was a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, although he killed himself with one of the two handguns he was carrying. A fourth weapon, a shotgun, was later found in the vehicle Lanza used to drive to the school.
• Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, was officially identified as a victim of her son's killing spree, after state authorities concluded an autopsy.
• Lanza was found to be still carrying "hundreds" of rounds of ammunition on him, officials said. Lt Paul Vance of Connecticut state police told a press conference that Lanza was also found to have "multiple" high capacity magazines for the rifle, and additional magazines for the two handguns.
• President Obama will visit with the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and will speak at a multifaith prayer vigil in Newtown tonight, from 7pm ET.
• St Rose of Lima church in Newtown was evacuated during a service this afternoon after an unspecified threat. Police and armed officers searched the church and grounds before the church was re-opened.
• New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg made an impassioned plea for tighter gun regulations as "number one priority". Appearing on Meet The Press, Bloomberg said that President Obama needed to show leadership to avoid the estimated 48,000 deaths resulting from illegal firearms, and also called for existing laws to be more rigorously enforced.
• Connecticut state police warned that false information being spread via social media was "becoming a concern" in its investigation into the killing of 20 children and six teachers.
We'll have coverage of President Obama's remarks at the prayer vigil in Newtown tonight from 7pm ET.
The discovery that Newtown school gunman Adam Lanza was carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition – and "multiple" high capacity clips for the semi-automatic rifle he used during the killings – suggests one area where tighter regulation could help.
The Guardian's Chris McGreal – in an article written in the wake of the Aurora shooting in Colorado – looked at how easy it is to buy huge amounts of ammunition:
There are no federal restrictions on how much ammunition an individual can buy. In many states, bullets are sold on supermarket shelves alongside everyday household goods....
Federal law does not require a background check for people buying ammunition, and sellers are not legally obliged to report even large purchases of ammunition to the authorities. However, some states and cities do have restrictions. Los Angeles, for instance, requires a permit to buy ammunition.
Attempts in Congress to regulate internet sales of ammunition have failed in the face of NRA-backed opposition.
Police: Adam Lanza carried 'hundreds' of bullets
Connecticut state police, at the press conference just concluded in Newtown, reveal that four weapons were involved in the attack, the primary weapon being the Bushmaster AR-15, but that Adam Lanza took his own life with a pistol.
A fourth weapon, a shotgun, was later found in the car Lanza drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Vance said that Lanza was carrying "hundreds" of rounds of ammunition, including multiple magazines capable of carrying 30 rounds. Asked how many, Vance replied "Several."
In response to a question about how many bullets Lanza was thought to have fired, Vance said it was impossible to say.
Vance again warned again about the use of social media to contact families of the victims, and said: "Harrassment will be enforced to the extent of the law." He continued:
We again are asking and imploring members of the media to respect the family's privacy.
Asked about the church evacuation, Vance said there was "a threat at the St Rose of Lima church here in Newtown," going on to say: "We've initiated a criminal investigation along with the Newtown police for this particular incident."
Vance said the threat was received via a phone call.
Police: Adam Lanza confirmed as Newtown gunman
Adam Lanza has been confirmed as the gunman in the Newtown school shootings, Lt Paul Vance of the Connecticut state police confirms at a press conference happening now.
Vance also confirms that Lanza then killed himself.
Nancy Lanza – Adam Lanza's mother – was also confirmed as the 27th victim, and her death has been ruled a homicide.
The police also say that the primary weapon used by Lanza was a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with what Vance describes as "multiple magazines," including one "high capacity magazine" and multiple magazines for the two handguns he carried.
Vance said that Lanza was still heavily armed when he committed suicide as police approached:
There was a lot of ammo, a lot of clips. Certainly a lot of lives were potentially saved.
As reported earlier, on Fox News today Republican representative Louis Gohmert of Texas was the lone voice arguing against tighter gun regulation – and claimed that "The facts are that every time guns have been allowed, concealed carry has been allowed, the crime rate has gone down."
Not so, AP reminds us:
A study by the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence determined that seven of the 10 states with the strongest gun laws – including Connecticut, Massachusetts and California – are also among the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates.
"If you look at the states with the strongest gun laws in the country, they have some of the lowest gun death rates, and some of the states with the weakest gun laws have some of the highest gun death rates," said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt reports with more detail on the sudden evacuation of a church in Newtown today after an unidentified threat was received, bringing a Swat team to the scene:
There is confusion as to exactly what happened at St Rose of Lima this afternoon.
Anne Spada, 52, was inside the church when a state trooper walked in and told people to leave.
"He said there was a threat, so you need to leave the church," she said.
She said she was "just there praying" rather than in the middle of a service. "People were angry they had to leave the church," she said.
Gailen Leon, 13, from Waterbury, said she was at the back of the church with her sister and mother, who gave her permission for Gailen to speak to the Guardian.
"It was silent then everybody was saying there's a threat, get out out. That's when everybody started running," she said.
Leon said police did not alert the family but instead churchgoers had warned each other. They hurried out to the car park.
"One woman fainted right beside the driveway," she said.
Police confirmed a threat had been made against the church. A spokesman could not confirm it was a bomb threat. He said the area had been secured.
Sites such as Buzzfeed and Gawker have rushed to defend themselves for the stream of misinformation they and other sections of the media posted in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, blaming in part the rush of "news" via social media.
But Matt Bors, the cartoonist who revealed via his Facebook timeline that Ryan Lanza was being unfairly named as the shooter, has a brutal response:
'Social Media' didn’t get anything wrong or right. Reporters got things wrong – people who made choices about what to post and how to headline it – and they looked like fools for doing so. You might as well credit phones and typewriters for everything reported correctly before 1999.... Lanza’s ability to post about his innocence, and mine to see it and relay it to people, is only a social media success story if you don’t question the necessity of dragging an alleged suspect’s possible Facebook profile into the limelight where he’ll be called a mass murderer of children.
Bors himself was heavily criticised on social media for even revealing the most tenuous Facebook link with the misidentified Ryan Lanza. Hence his conclusion:
Social media is simply a tool, and from what I saw yesterday, not one that’s bringing out anything social in us.
New York City Mike Bloomberg endorses a national petition calling for the government to address gun violence – one launched through the Mayors Against Gun Violence campaign, of which Bloomberg is a member.
Private gun ownership in the US is far out-stripping US population growth, reports Mother Jones – with the terrifying detail that no one knows for sure exactly how many guns there are out there:
A precise count isn't possible because most guns in the United States aren't registered and the government has scant ability to track them, thanks to a legislative landscape shaped by powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But through a combination of national surveys and manufacturing and sales data, we know that the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth. In 1995 there were an estimated 200m guns in private hands. Today, there are around 300m — about a 50% jump. The US population, now over 314 million, grew by about 20% in that period. At this rate, there will be a gun for every man, woman, and child before the decade ends.
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt reports from Newtown, where there has been an evacuation by armed police of a church in the town:
A scene just now in Sandy Hook that no one wanted to see: the St Rose of Lima church was evacuated after police apparently received a threat close by.
People who had been inside the church watched from across the road as more than 10 police cars and a heavy duty police vehicle pulled up outside the building. Around 10 officers in camouflage swat gear, including helmets and vests, walked in single file to a white building next door to the church, reported by AP to be the church rectory. All the officers carried what appeared to be assault rifle-type weapons, and the man at the front held a heavy duty shield in front of him as they slowly approached.
The officers entered the building and torchlight could be seen inside. Outside, police in standard uniforms stood around the white building, some with weapons drawn. Three of the police officers stood behind broad trees outside.
As press and some churchgoers watched, the situation remained the same for around five minutes, before finally the officers in SWAT gear left the building. They walked more casually this time, and the man with a shield held it down by his side.
Update: Fox News is reporting that the church has been re-opened.
Bloomberg: Obama 'has got to try. And that's his job.'
Because it's worth reading in full, here's some of New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg's comments today on Meet The Press – and his argument that President Obama needs to lead the charge for greater gun regulation:
Mike Bloomberg: It's so unbelievable. And it only happens in America. And it happens again and again. There was another shooting yesterday. Three people killed I think in a hospital. We kill people in schools. We kill them in hospitals. We kill them in religious organizations. We kill them when they're young. We kill them when they're old. And we've just got to stop this.
David Gregory: A significant statement as far as it goes. You're calling for immediate action. What precisely?
Bloomberg: Well, number one, I think the President should console the country. But he's the Commander-in-chief as well as the Consoler-in-chief. And he calls for action, but he called for action two years ago. And every time there is a disaster like this, a tragedy like this, everybody says, well, now is not the time. Or if you had fixed the problem, you can't guarantee that this particular event would have been prevented.
All of that is true. It's time for the President, I think, to stand up and lead. And tell this country what we should do. Not go to Congress and say what you guys want to do. This should be his number one agenda. He is the President of the United States. And if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns. That is roughly the number of Americans killed in the whole of the Vietnam War.
Gregory: So what do you do?
Bloomberg: Well, there's a number of things that the President can do and a number of things that Congress can do. And there are a number of things that you and I can do as voters. What the President can do is number one through executive action, he can order his agencies to enforce the laws more aggressively. I think there's something like 77,000 people who have been accused of lying when they have applied for a gun permit. We've only prosecuted 77 of them.
The President can introduce legislation even if it doesn't get passed. The President campaigned back in 2008 on a bill that would prohibit assault weapons. We've got to really question whether military style weapons with big magazines belong in the streets of America in this day and age. Nobody questions the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. But I don't think the founding fathers had the idea that every man, woman, and child could carry an assault weapon.
And I think the President through his leadership could get a bill like that through Congress. But at least he's got to try. And that's his job.
The Associated Press reports from Newtown:
Worshippers hurriedly left a church Sunday, saying they were told there was a bomb threat not far from the elementary school where 20 kids and six adults were massacred.
At least a dozen police in camouflage Swat gear and carrying guns arrived at the St Rose of Lima Church. An Associated Press photographer saw police leave carrying something in a red tarp.
There was no official report from police about the threat or evacuation.
It's not clear if there actually was a threat or if, like many tragedies, whether it was a hoax or the result of a community on edge.
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt is outside the St Rose of Lima church in Newtown, which has just been evacuated and and the area surrounded by heavily-armed police officers.
Officers are stood outside the building with guns drawn. Some of them are stood behind trees. twitter.com/AdamGabbatt/st…— Adam Gabbatt (@AdamGabbatt) December 16, 2012
Breaking news from Newtown: the St Rose of Lima church has been evacuated, the Guardian's Adam Gabbatt reports from the scene. He says that the congregation was evacuated in mid-service and that parishioners were told there had been a threat against the church.
St Rose Church has been evacuated. Developing story.— The Newtown Bee (@TheNewtownBee) December 16, 2012
Armed police in army fatigues entering white house next to St Rose of Lima church right now— Adam Gabbatt (@AdamGabbatt) December 16, 2012
The Associated Press has a disturbing report from Indiana:
Authorities say an Indiana man who had 47 guns and ammunition in his home has been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill people at an elementary school near his home.
Cedar Lake police were called to the home of 60-year-old Von I. Meyer early Friday after he allegedly threatened to set his wife on fire. A police statement says Meyer also said he would enter Jane Ball Elementary School and "kill as many people as he could."
Connecticut police: no timeline of shooting yet
Opening up to question from journalists at the press conference, Lt Vance is asked several times about the detailed timeline of the attack within the school published today by the Hartford Courant newspaper, which contains graphic descriptions of the attack.
Vance is not confirming the details in the report:
I cannot restate or restate heavily enough: I have not and will not put out a timeline in this investigation as it is underway.
Saying that he had not read the Courant report, Vance repeated that the authorities will not confirm its details: "We cannot and will not describe the location of the deceased in this investigation."
Asked about reports that Nancy Lanza took her sons to shooting ranges, Vance also wouldn't be drawn:
I don't know that, quite frankly.... We can't take segments of an investigation and discuss it public because it may be misinterpreted.
Asked how confident he was that the investigation would eventually discover the motives behind the shooting, Vance replied:
I am confident that we will put ever resource into this investigation and we will answer every question that is relevant in this case.... We're using every single resource and our goal is to paint a complete picture of what happened here.
On the types of misinformation being posted on social media, Vance said "I'm not a social media expert," but mentioned that quotes by people posing as the shooter have been made online: "Suffice to say that the information has been deemed as threatening, it has been deemed inaccurate."
Finally, Vance revealed that investigators have spoken to "many witnesses but there are many more witnesses to speak to, including some of the children."
Vance confirmed that the wounded have already been interviewed.
The question of the surviving children ever returning to the school is raised. "It's difficult to imagine," says another officer.
Connecticut police: false social media postings to be investigated
Connecticut state police spokesman Lt Paul Vance has given a press conference to update the media – and issues a warning that "false misinformation" circulating on social media "will be investigated and prosecuted".
Saying that false quotes attributed to the gunman and other claims made via social media were "becoming somewhat of a concern," Vance stated:
It is important to know we have discussed with federal authorities that these issues are crimes and they will be investigated... prosecutions will take place when these peoples are identified.
Vance said that law enforcement agencies are not posting information on social media, and that individuals posting false information "will be investigated and prosecuted" by federal authorities.
Vance had little new to add about the progress of the investigation in the shooting:
There's nothing new to report with respect to the investigation... I will not and cannot detail pieces of the investigation.
But he said that there may soon have confirmation of the identity of the gunman and his remaining unidentified victim – believed to Adam Lanza and his mother, Nancy:
Early this afternoon we hope to release factual information on the identification of the last two deceased.
The investigation was focusing on the single crime scene at the school itself, with the other designated crime scene – the school carpark – had been largely completed, and that cars were being released to their owners.
We're waiting for the start of the press conference in Connecticut, when we should hear more details from the police and state medical examiner.
Connecticut governor Dan Malloy speaks in favour of gun control on CNN this morning:
I think when we talk about the assault weapons ban that was in place in the United States, to have allowed that to go away or dissipate, it's the state's ability to enforce that, because guns move across state lines.
In fact, a lot of guns used in crimes in Connecticut were purchased at – we know because we can track them – were purchased at gun shows in other states particularly down in the southern portion of the United States. They work up [the] coast and they get here. That was not the case in this situation.
The Brady Bill was a piece of legislation that made a lot of sense, still does. And one can only hope that we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose.
Connecticut gun ranges in business as usual
The Guardian's Ed Pilkington is in Newtown – and he finds it's business as usual at the nearby gun ranges in Connecticut:
It’s 48 hours since Adam Lanza broke his way into Sandy Hook school and killed 20 children and six adults, and you might think that given the circumstances shooting ranges in the vicinity of the school would be closed on Sunday morning out of a sense of propriety. Wrong.
Shooters pistol range in New Milford, which is about 15 miles from Newtown where the rampage took place, is very much open for business this morning. I’m here now, sitting in my car outside the warehouse that contains the range, and I can hear the “pop, pop” of guns firing about every 10 seconds.
The reason I’m sitting outside the range is that when I went inside to see the manager of Shooters, he refused to talk to me, other than to confirm that the facility is open today. He was sitting at a counter inside the warehouse which also acts as a gun shop; at his back was a row of guns, including semi-automatic assault rifles similar to the Bushmaster used by Lanza, that stretches for about 30 feet.
The website for Shooters says that “target shooting is fun and challenging for everyone”, but adds: “Safety is our first priority”. It says of its shop that it also offers rental guns: “we offer several selections of revolvers and semi-automatics from .22 to .45 caliber.”
Outside the range, I’ve just spoken to one customer who has arrived to go target shooting with his 14-year-old son. Mike D’Amico says the two come to shoot because “We enjoy it. We just enjoy shooting - it’s something we like to do, it’s personal enjoyment.”
When I ask D’Amico what he thinks about the debate around gun control that has started up in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and President Obama’s call for “meaningful action” on gun control, I’m surprised by his answer. He’s in favour of greater gun controls, he says.
“I’ve thought about it for quite a while. I just don’t see the need for people to carry some of these big guns - they don’t seem appropriate for target practice or shooting and hunting. Some of the weapons available are just not right.”
That’s the thing about America and guns - it never ceases to surprise. A shooting range is open two days after one of the most horrendous acts of gun violence the country has suffered, and it happened just a short ride away. But when you ask a man preparing to go shooting with his teenaged son, he’s says he’s all in favour of greater gun control.
The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt is in Newtown, where church services are taking place this morning:
Members of the clergy handed out a box of tissues to each pew ahead of the service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown.
The large grey stone church is around a mile from the center of Sandy Hook. Most of the wooden benches were filled with people on Sunday morning. The car park was full too.
The rector, Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, told the congregation that she had been at the fire house close to Sandy Hook elementary waiting and praying with families. She was there when some of those families found out their children would not be coming home.
What happened that day was not God's will, Adams-Shepherd told the churchgoers. Some wept as a reading listed the names of those killed. Six-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, whose parents worshipped at Trinity Episcopal, was among the dead.
Adams-Shepherd and the other members of the clergy came down among the congregation, some of them squeezing into pews next to the congregation. "I wanted to be among you," the rector said.
She encouraged people to hug each other, prompting emotional embraces. "Jesus will still come," Adams-Shepherd said. "Santa will come too," she added.
In her address to the church, she said she had made a conscious decision not to allow television crews and photographers into the church during the last few days and during Sunday's service. Families of the victims should be left in private, Adams-Shepherd said, and the church should be a place of respite.
"Thank you pastor," one churchgoer called out. The congregation broke into a standing ovation.
Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman – who steps down shortly – tells Fox News Sunday that a national commission could be set up to examine the nation's gun laws and mental health system as well as the role that violent video games and movies might play in shootings:
We've got to hear the screams of these kids and see their blood to keep this from happening again.
A depressing conversation on This Week between host George Stephanopoulous and ABC News's chief justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, on the sheer number of guns in the US:
Stephanopoulous: You've made the point that the volume of the gun sales means we're beyond the point of no return. There are so many guns out there right now in the United States.
Thomas: To use the cliche, the genie's out of the bottle. There are more than 200 million-plus guns already in circulation, so if you stop selling them today, forever, they are not biodegradable, they're not going anywhere. So you would have to figure out how to remove them from the streets. That would be very difficult.
Connecticut's US Senator Richard Blumenthal – a former federal prosecutor and the state's attorney general for 20 years – says new gun laws are needed on This Week:
I'm hearing from the community, as well as my colleagues in law enforcement, we need to do something. And I'm hearing from my colleagues in the Senate around the country, some in states like Wisconsin and Colorado, where there have been similar horrific, horrible tragedies, maybe not involving children with this kind of uncomprehensible kind of circumstance, but we need to do something, at the very least, perhaps, about the high-capacity magazines that were used in this crime.
Blumenthal says: "I intend to talk about it on the floor of the United States Senate perhaps as early as this week."
Senator Feinstein: Obama will support new gun control laws
Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein tells Meet The Press that she intends to launch new gun control legislation on the first day of the new Congress in January:
Will Obama throw his support behind the new gun law? "I believe he will," says Sen. Feinstein. #MTP— Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc) December 16, 2012
The New York Times reports this morning that efforts by the Department of Justice to toughen gun controls were shelved, in part because of the political fall-out from its botched "Fast and Furious" gun-running sting:
After the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and others at a supermarket in Tucson in early 2011, the Justice Department drew up a detailed list of steps the government could take to expand the background-check system in order to reduce the risk of guns falling into the hands of mentally ill people and criminals.
Most of the proposals, though, were shelved at the department a year ago as the election campaign heated up and as Congress conducted a politically charged investigation into the Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking case, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations.
Statement by Peter Lanza
Last night Peter Lanza, the father of Adam Lanza, issued a statement on behalf of his family:
Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why.... Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired.
Mike Bloomberg: 'It happens again and again'
New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg issues a rousing call for President Obama to make gun control his "number one priority" on Meet The Press this morning:
It's time for the president to stand up and lead and tell the country what we should do... If he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns. That's is roughly the number of Americans killed during the whole Vietnam war.
"There is this myth that the NRA is so powerful," says Bloomberg on @meetthepress. "The NRA's power is so vastly overrated"— Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc) December 16, 2012
It's a powerful performance by Bloomberg.
Usually an invitation to a high-profile Sunday talk show is catnip for senators but not this week it seems, according to a producer for Meet The Press:
BTW, we reached out to ALL 31 pro-gun rights Sens in the new Congress to invite them to share their views on @meetthepress - NO takers.— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyMTP) December 16, 2012
Who were the 31 senators and which parties do they represent? There are more than a few Democratic senators who oppose gun control.
GOP congressman: fight guns with more guns
On Fox News Sunday, Republican representative from Texas Louis Gohmert is telling host Chris Wallace that the solution to gun crime is more guns.
Claiming that the worst massacres in recent US history happened in places were guns were banned, Gohmert said the deaths in Newtown may not have happened if Dawn Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had been armed:
Chris, I wish to God she had had an M4 [weapon] in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.
Every time laws were loosened to allow "concealed carry" of guns, crime went down, Gohmert claimed:
The facts are that every time guns have been allowed, concealed-carry has been allowed, the crime rate has gone down. Washington DC around us ought to be the safest place in America and it's not. Chicago ought to be safe. It's not, because their gun laws don't work.
Rupert Murdoch weighs in on gun control debate
Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate who controls the Fox network, issued an unusual tweet last night:
Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy, but how about some bold leadership action?— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) December 16, 2012
An earlier tweet from Murdoch alluded to tougher gun control laws enacted in his native Australia after a mass killing in 1996: "When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy."
If Murdoch's formidable Fox News channel were to take a more neutral tone on gun control, that would be a significant development, given Fox's influence with conservatives and Republicans.
The Guardian's Ed PIlkington in Newtown details the names of those who died in the Connecticut school rampage:
The nature of the tragedy is told perhaps most poignantly not through the list of 26 names of the victims published by police, but through their dates of birth. Sixteen of them were born in 2006 – they were six years old; four more were seven. The youngest victim, Noah Pozner, celebrated his sixth birthday less than a month ago, on 20 November.
A full list of the victims is here.
The Guardian's Tracy McVeigh profiles Adam Lanza, the former Sandy Hook student said to have shot 27 people and then himself:
An honours student, he was a thin, awkward but bright boy who seemed socially uncomfortable. With retrospect some of his then classmates have said perhaps he had autism or Asperger's syndrome – that is what has been reported in local media to be what his brother has told the police. Lanza had no criminal record and no history of his causing trouble in the past, either at school or in his affluent neighbourhood of Newtown, some 90 miles from New York City. Some of his former classmates had trouble remembering anything about him at all.
The Associated Press is reporting that federal agents "planned to fan out to dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges across Connecticut" in the search for evidence about the lead-up to Friday's killings.
It quotes Dean Price, director of the Wooster Mountain State Range — a shooting range in Danbury, Connecticut — as saying two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives visited the range on Friday night and Saturday, and stayed into the early morning looking through thousands of names on sign-in logs at the club
Pope Benedict prays for Newtown families
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican this morning that he is praying for the families of the victims, saying he was "deeply saddened by Friday's senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut":
I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain."
President Obama to speak at Newtown vigil
The White House has updated the details of President Obama's visit to Newtown today. It says the president will meet privately with families of the victims and then with emergency personnel who attended in the aftermath of the shootings. He will then speak at an vigil at Newtown High School tonight at around 7pm ET.
President Obama will visit Newtown, Connecticut, today to meet families of the victims of the attack on Sandy Hook elementary school, as the debate on gun control gathers momentum, and looks set to dominate the Sunday morning news talk shows.
Connecticut governor Dan Malloy appears on three of the shows: NBC's Face the Nation, CBS's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week, while New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg – an avowed advocate of tougher gun control measures – appears on Meet The Press.
In Newtown this morning, Sunday church services are taking place, and the police are scheduled to hold a news briefing shortly.
Here's the full rundown of the Sunday talk show guests:
Meet the Press on NBC
• Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy
• New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
• Senator Dianne Feinstein
• Bill Bennett, former secretary of education
• Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers
• Tom Ridge, former secretary of homeland security and former governor of Pennsylvania
Face the Nation on CBS
• Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy
• Senator Chuck Schumer
• Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas.)
• Dan Gross, president, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
This Week on ABC
• Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy
• Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
• Chris Murphy, senator-elect of Connecticut
• Representative Jason Chaffetz
• Representative Donna Edwards
• Hartford mayor Pedro Segarra
Fox News Sunday on Fox
• Senator Joe Lieberman
• Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin
• Representative Louie Gohmert
We will be following the news shows this morning, and updating with events as they happen. For coverage of yesterday's news, read our liveblog here.
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