An emotional President Obama, wiping away tears and choking up as he spoke, said Friday that “our hearts are broken” for the families of the victims in the deadly mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The president, hinting at possible legislation, pledged “meaningful action” to prevent more killings in the future.
The president addressed the tragedy during remarks at the White House Friday afternoon, as details continued to emerge. Authorities say at least 26 people, most of them children, were killed when a gunman clad in black military gear opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school.
The president, who in the past has maintained his composure at such moments no matter the depth of the tragedy at hand, on Friday paused repeatedly, struggling to get through his remarks.
The president stopped for several seconds, his eyes welling up, as he discussed the victims.
“The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” Obama said. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Shortly before speaking, Obama ordered that U.S. flags be flown at half-staff on public grounds through Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner ordered flags be lowered at the U.S. Capitol.
The president said he reacted to the tragedy as a parent.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, 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,” Obama said. “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”
The shooting quickly stirred questions about whether lawmakers in Washington might pick up the push for stricter gun control.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney brushed off such questions at the briefing, but Obama called for “action” toward the close of his remarks Friday, citing the frequency with which such mass shootings have occurred.
“These neighbors are our neighbors, 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,” Obama said.
Several Democratic lawmakers were also calling Friday for stricter gun control.
“Our expressions of sympathy must be matched with concrete actions to stop gun violence,” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said.
Obama was first briefed on the shooting Friday morning by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and is continuing to receive regular updates.
Obama also spoke with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to express his condolences, and offer support.
The White House said the FBI is supporting state and local law enforcement officials in Connecticut as they respond to and investigate the incident.
Our prayers go out to all the families who lost a loved one.