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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Obama remembers Sandy Hook victims

Published 14/12/2013 | 16:42

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U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observe a moment of silence after lighting candles in memory of the 20 children and six school workers killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago, in the Map Room at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2013. Obama marked the anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings on Saturday by calling for tighter gun control and expanded mental health care. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observe a moment of silence after lighting candles in memory of the 20 children and six school workers killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago, in the Map Room at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2013. Obama marked the anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings on Saturday by calling for tighter gun control and expanded mental health care. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)
Hundreds of people stand outside St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut (AP)
Twenty-six candles remain lit after U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence in memory of the 20 children and six school workers killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago, in the Map Room at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2013. Obama marked the anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings on Saturday by calling for tighter gun control and expanded mental health care.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)
Twenty-six candles remain lit after U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence in memory of the 20 children and six school workers killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago, in the Map Room at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2013. Obama marked the anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings on Saturday by calling for tighter gun control and expanded mental health care. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY)

US president Barack Obama has marked the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school with a moment of silence at the White House.

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Before pausing to remember the Connecticut school tragedy a year ago, the president and first lady Michelle Obama lit 26 votive candles set up on a table in the Map Room - one candle for each of the 20 children and six staff members who were killed.

Church bells in Newtown, Connecticut, rang 26 times as the names of each of the victims were read at the town's St Rose of Lima church, one of several houses of worship that held private services for a community still grieving the deaths.

Mr Obama said in his radio address that the massacre at Sandy Hook will be remembered as a tragedy that inspired the nation to make communities safer.

"We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for," he said.

A year ago, with the grief of the horrific school shootings still fresh, many predicted it would force Congress to approve long-stalled legislation to tighten US gun laws.

Led by Mr Obama, gun control advocates called for background checks for all gun purchasers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But their efforts were thwarted by the gun rights lobby, led by the influential National Rifle Association; opposition from most Republicans and the reluctance of Democrats from Republican-leaning states to anger voters by further restricting firearms.

In the end, a divided Congress did not enact any new gun curbs in response to the Newtown shooting.

There were not enough votes in the Senate to pass even a compromise on expanded background checks that was widely supported by voters.

A handful of Democratic-led states, including Connecticut, did enact stricter gun control measures, but some Republican-controlled states, including Texas, loosened their gun laws to expand the rights of people to carry guns in public.

Surveys suggest that support for new gun laws is slipping as the Newtown memory fades.

Still, some Newtown parents who lost children in the Sandy Hook massacre vowed to press on with the fight to reduce gun violence - no matter how long it takes.

"I know it's not a matter of if it happens. It's a matter of when. This absolutely keeps me going," said Nicole Hockley, who joined a handful of Newtown parents in a private White House meeting with Vice President Joe Biden this week.

"No matter how much tragedy affects you, you have to find a way forward. You have to invest in life."

Ms Hockley's six-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook a year ago.

The 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother inside their Newtown home on December 14, 2012, before driving to the school where he carried out his rampage with his parent's weapons. He killed himself as police arrived at the school.

Newtown residents asked for quiet and privacy on the anniversary.

Satellite television trucks filled Newtown's streets in the days after the shooting, and media have often returned since to the community of 28,000 people for stories related to the attack.

In an effort to keep the anniversary focused on quiet reflection, First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra announced in October that Newtown would not host any formal remembrance events.

The news media were asked to keep their distance, and No Media signs went up around town as they did in the weeks after the tragedy.

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