President Barack Obama marked with a solemn candle-lighting ceremony the first year anniversary of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut, a tragedy that spurred him to seek greater gun controls that Congress rebuffed.
In the White House map room yesterday, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama lit 26 candles, one for each of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. The Obamas bowed their heads in a moment of silence and walked out together without speaking.
The White House’s commemorative event came as authorities in Colorado released more details about a Dec. 13 shooting at a Denver-area high school in which the gunman killed himself after wounding a fellow student.
In Newtown, a church rang its bells 26 times to honor the 20 first-graders and six adult educators killed last year by Adam Lanza with a semiautomatic rifle. Lanza, 20, killed his mother before driving to the school that he had attended and embarking on the shooting spree. He then took his own life.
Other houses of worship in the Newtown area held private services observing the anniversary, though no formal public memorial was held, the Associated Press reported.
The massacre prompted Obama in January to introduce a package of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence, including bans on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
His proposals stalled in Congress. The Republican-led House of Representatives declined to act on any of the measures and the Democratic-led Senate failed to advance a bill aimed at expanding background checks of gun buyers.
Obama also took note of the shooting in his weekly radio and Internet address, saying, “We haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer. We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily.”
In offering no legislative remedies, he said, “We can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come -- from you. From the American people.”
States dealt with gun policy differently in the shooting’s aftermath. Twenty-eight states this year enacted laws lifting some gun restrictions. Twenty-one states, including Connecticut and New York, expanded them.
In Colorado, two Democratic state senators were recalled by voters in September after supporting a background-check law.
In the Dec. 13 shooting in that state, a teenage gunman walked into Arapahoe High School, which he attended, with a shotgun, a machete and a backpack containing three incendiary devices, authorities said yesterday.
Karl Pierson, 18, apparently was targeting a faculty member while also wanting to harm others, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said at a news conference.
“His intent was evil and his intent was to injure multiple people,” Robinson said, adding that the rampage lasted less than a minute and a half.
Claire Davis, a 17-year-old in her last year of high school, was shot at point-blank range in the head, he said. She is hospitalized in critical condition.
Pierson legally purchased the shotgun under Colorado law at a local store on Dec. 6, Robinson said.
Columbine High School, also in the Denver area, was the scene of a 1999 rampage by two teenagers who killed 12 other students and a teacher before committing suicide.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org