President Tries to Console a Grieving Community

President Obama pauses Sunday night while speaking at Newtown High School in Newtown, Connecticut.

As he tried to comfort the people of Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday night, President Obama vowed to “use whatever power (my) office holds” to prevent future tragedies like Friday’s deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“We can’t accept events like this as routine,” Mister Obama said, during an interfaith service at Newtown High School.

Twenty first graders and six grownups were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday before the gunman shot and killed himself.

Police say the gunman also shot and killed his own mother at their home before the killings at the school.

According to published reports, he had a history of mental illness.

The President asked some hard questions at Sunday’s service – not only to the overflow crowd at the high school, but also to himself.

“Can we truly say as a nation that we’re meeting our obligations?  Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?” Mister Obama said.  “If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.”

The President did not say specifically what he plans to do to prevent future mass killings.

But there’s growing pressure on him to push for tougher gun-control laws – laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Many gun control advocates say Congress needs to start by bringing back the national ban on assault weapons.

Those are weapons designed only to kill other people, not for hunting animals, according to gun-control supporters.

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

Since then, lawmakers who oppose the ban have been successful in keeping it from being renewed.

Up to now, the Obama administration has said that existing gun laws need to be enforced better.

But after the killings of 20 kids in Newtown, the President seemed to concede Sunday that enforcing existing laws is not enough.

“We are not doing enough,” he said.  “And we will have to change.”

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he continued.  “No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.  But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.  Surely we can do better than this.”