WASHINGTON –Fighting back tears, President Barack Obama said the hearts of America were “broken” in the wake of Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut that killed nearly 30 people, most of them children.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” Obama told reporters in a brief statement from the White House.
Obama stopped several times to compose himself when delivering his remarks. “Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years,” Obama said. “They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Obama did not mention specific legislative changes he would might seek in the wake of the shooting, but said he will consider a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in his second term.
Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation released a statement saying:
“We are angry and heartbroken at the news of another horrifying and senseless school shooting. Our deepest and heartfelt prayers and thoughts are with the children, families, teachers, school officials, law enforcement, first responders and the entire community of Newtown who are impacted by this tragedy. Please know all of us in Colorado are here to support and provide comfort and strength to Connecticut in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
“We’re going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this,” Obama said.
“It does remain a commitment of his,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters about the Clinton-era ban that expired in 2004.
The response inched the administration closer to reviewing thorny Second Amendment issues following several high profile shootings, a topic Obama carefully avoided in his first term.
Though the weapon used in the shooting has not been identified, the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School renewed public policy focus on gun control and ownership.
“I am absolutely horrified by news of the cold-blooded shooting of dozens of children in Newtown, Connecticut. Yet another unstable person has gotten access to firearms and committed an unspeakable crime against innocent children,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, in a statement.
“We cannot simply accept this as a routine product of modern American life. If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is. How many more Columbines and Newtowns must we live through? I am challenging President Obama, the Congress, and the American public to act on our outrage and, finally, do something about this,” Nadler said.
Polls, such as one conducted by CNN/ORC International in August shortly after the deadly theater mass shooting earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado, have found that 76% of those surveyed believe “there should be some restrictions on owning guns.”
Similar polls conducted after other mass shootings, such as last year’s assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, in Tucson that killed six people, showed a starker split.
A Pew poll conducted after that shooting found that 49% of Americans said it was “more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns,” while 46% said it was “more important to control gun ownership.”
In Colorado, recent polls suggest most voters do not favor stricter gun regulations.
Sixty-six percent of voters in Colorado said they do not believe harsher gun laws would curtail future shooting sprees. However, the majority of Coloradan’s surveyed (58 percent) indicated they would support a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines.
But during the presidential campaign, both Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney carefully avoided wading too deeply into the highly contentious and intensely partisan debate over gun control.
"We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment," Obama said at the second presidential debate with Romney.
Talk of gun rights was largely absent from Obama's speech in the aftermath of the deadly Fort Hood shooting in 2009 and after the Giffords incident. Obama mentioned gun safety only in passing after the Tucson shootings to describe the polarizing nature of the issue.
He wrote an opinion piece two months after the Arizona assault that acknowledged the importance of the Second Amendment and called for a "focus" on "effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place."
Political discourse on guns is unlikely to increase since polls indicate Americans don't want to make gun laws more strict and overall gun violence has actually decreased, Kristin A. Goss, an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of "Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America" said earlier this year."
"Historically the pro control side has struggled to come up with a compelling narrative that will help people come over to the case of stricter gun control laws," Goss said. "For a long time, these gun violence rates and massacres speak for themselves. They relied on that to make the case but were up against a very powerful but very well disciplined and skillful army that was good at taking those arguments apart."