(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — President Obama is expected to travel to a mourning Newtown, Conn., this evening for memorial services, as the nation pieces together the circumstances that led to a gunman taking the lives of 20 young children and six adults Friday at the community’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Assuming a consoling role that has become all too familiar for this presidency, Obama will also privately meet with some of the families affected by the tragic shooting, as well as local first responders.
The president has witnessed five mass shootings since assuming office in 2009, but his reaction to this most recent tragedy in New England has been his most publicly emotional. On Friday, tears collected in his eyes as he addressed the nation after the tragedy.
“The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said, pausing to collect himself. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
But the president has also been more directly political in the immediate aftermath of these killings, as national discussions simmer over how to move forward and what, if any, policy is needed to prevent future violence. The president said it was time for “meaningful action” to prevent such tragedies, “regardless of the politics.”
“We have been through this too many times, whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago,” he said of the other mass shootings in the past year alone. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.”
It is a subtle but noticeable shift for Obama, who has not actively pursued stricter gun control during his four years in office despite pledges to do so during his candidacy. Although the White House says it needs support from Congress to move forward with strong legislation, it is also known that many politicians shied away to such reforms during the 2012 campaign season out of fear of alienating potential voters.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jim Acosta and Greg Clary, CNN
Tom Kludt and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Dan Berman, CNN
Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN