An emotional President Barack Obama vowed a new effort to fight violence Sunday night in Newtown, Conn., as he memorialized the 26 victims of the latest mass shooting on his watch.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he said.
“These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex and that is true. No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act . . . but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this,” he said.
Obama said that he would use “whatever power this office holds” to engage citizens in an effort aimed at preventing future tragedies.
“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that the violence visited upon our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” he said in an apparent reference to the 20 children, aged 6 to 7, who were killed on Friday along with six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Obama did not lay out a specific legislative agenda, but he framed the debate to come as one of protecting children, and one with “hard questions” for the nation.
“This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right,” he said. “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, from harm? . . . If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.”
The poignant, 18-minute address came after meeting with families who had lost loved ones and first responders.
“They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school . . . could be any town in America,” Obama said. “I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. . . . Newtown you are not alone.”
Obama choked up at times as he read the names of the victims from the school who were gunned down for reasons that are still not publicly known.
“God has called them all home,” Obama said.
At the end of the speech, the president received a standing ovation.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.