(MCT) WASHINGTON — Choking up and wiping away tears, President Barack Obama offered support and prayers for the families of those shot in an elementary school in Connecticut and called for “meaningful action” to stop such violence.
“Our hearts are broken today,” the president said in the briefing room at the White House.
Obama spoke hours after a gunman shot and killed more than two dozen people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty of the dead were children, according to officials.
Obama noted that he always responds to such tragedies 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,” he said, wiping away a tear and pausing to collect himself. “The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
White House staffers who accompanied the president into the briefing room fought back tears as they sat by for his statement.
Obama has had to respond to a series of similar high-profile shootings, including the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a supermarket in Arizona and the movie-theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. After those events, Obama called for a national conversation about violence but avoided discussing specific gun control laws. The president supports the reinstatement of a ban on the sale of new assault weapons, although he has done little to advance that effort.
Obama suggested he may be willing to move beyond a conversation in response to Friday’s shooting.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” he said. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, these children are our children,” the president said. “And we’re going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
When the president concluded his remarks, he turned and left the room in silence. No one shouted questions.
The White House issued a proclamation honoring the dead and ordering flags be flown at half-staff.