The President said, “Surely, we can do better than this”
It was a slow start to a sad day, when the news began to spread about something that was going on in a school in Connecticut. Shoots fired in a school … an elementary school … possibly three dead … those were the very earliest reports, but as the day wore on it became a tragedy of international proportions. By the end of the day, Friday, December 14, 2012, it was clear that at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. twenty children and six adults had been slaughtered.
People from all over the United States, the world, began to respond to that community.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, said, “Our hearts are broken by the senseless violence that took place today in Newtown, Conn. We wish a sense of peace and courage to all of the families and educators affected, as well as to Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, as they lead their communities through this unthinkable tragedy.”
Metro schools shared the shock, saying, “Our hearts go out to the Newtown school community … Our school psychologists and social workers are available to assist students as needed. Schools are often a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy. Being with their friends and teachers can help.
“The National Association of School Psychologists has developed tips to help parents talk with children about violence. They are available in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. See www.nasponline.org for more information.”
Schools opened on Monday, with “heaviness of hearts” on the parts of administrators, teachers, and parents throughout the country. The concern was/and is, how can the children be kept safe, protected?
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement. “I’m appalled that a season of joy has turned into one of horror for the community of Newtown. Children and teachers should be safe wen they’re in school. I hope we all will hold our kids closer tonight and think about what we, as adults, can do to stop tragedies like this.”
On the day of the tragedy, in the afternoon, President Barack Obama made a statement giving his condolences on behalf of the nation as well as sharing his grief as a parent for the “beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.”
The President said, “As a country, we have been through this too many times. 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. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
On Dec. 16, 2012, President Obama spoke at vigil in Newtown. He shared how this had been the fourth time since his presidency that the nation has come together to mourn the lost of victims at a mass shooting. President Obama said, “Surely, we can do better than this.” In closing he said, “May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”
In a Press Conference on Dec. 19, three days after the Nation gathered to pray for the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, President Obama made additional remarks. Below are excerpts from those remarks:
— We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try.
— That conversation has to continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.
— That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January — proposals that I then intend to push without delay … I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country. That plan — that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.
— The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.
— Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences.
— So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.
— And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself … it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.
The realization of the horrific event is that it could have happened at any elementary school in America. As one of the people in Newtown said, “Evil visited Newtown today.”