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Cheryl Girardi, of Middletown, Connecticut, kneels beside 26 teddy bears, each representing a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, at a sidewalk memorial on Sunday, in Newtown, Connecticut. David Goldman / Associated Press
US president attends vigil for 26 victims of Connecticut massacre
US President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to battle gun violence, as a Connecticut town prepared to bury the first two victims of last Friday's rampage at an elementary school.
Speaking at a vigil for the dead, including 20 children aged six and seven, Obama cast the fight as a nation's duty to protect its young and pledged to use all his power to stop such gun massacres, saying, "These tragedies must end."
Newtown, home to the Sandy Hook Elementary School where Adam Lanza, 20, unleashed terror with a military-style assault rifle, was scheduled to hold the first two funerals of the victims on Monday, with more throughout the week, according to local website Newtown Patch.
Six-year-old Noah Pozner will be buried at the B'Nai Israel Cemetery, while Jack Pinto, also six, is to be buried in the Newtown Village Cemetery.
The other victims of the shooting included six teachers and support staff at the school, as well as the gunman's mother and the gunman himself.
At Sunday's vigil, the voices of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders united in grief as mourners grasped for meaning amid unbearable loss.
Called on for the fourth time in his presidency to eulogize the victims of a mass gun crime, Obama appeared to commit himself to a genuine effort to reform firearms laws, perhaps by leading a push to restore a ban on assault weapons, like the one used by Lanza. The ban expired in 2004.
He did not describe the fight against the entrenched gun lobby, which wields substantial power in the US Congress, as an effort to confiscate weapons - a desire his most vehement conservative opponents often say he harbors.
But he suggested that the argument should be built more on the need to protect innocent, defenseless children.
"Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?" he asked, as candles burned by his podium to remember the victims.
"I've been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We are not doing enough, and we will have to change."
Obama's impassioned remarks did not propose specific solutions, in keeping with the somber tone of the apolitical vigil service.
Heart-rending sobs broke the silence as Obama slowly read the names of the children whose lives were taken and the adults who died trying to protect them.
"They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school, in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America," Obama said.
"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change," the newly re-elected president said, implicitly rebuking those who argue that efforts to introduce more gun control laws would do little to stop killings.
Many states, including Connecticut, already have strict laws on the purchase of firearms, but with no federal statutes, there is little to stop the traffic of guns from other states where fewer restrictions apply.
Since the federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, efforts to revive it have failed.
(China Daily 12/18/2012 page11)