President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he speaks about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Updated: January 16, 2013 6:11AM
WASHINGTON — Reacting as much as parent as president, an emotional President Barack Obama said “our hearts are broken today” in the wake of the Friday shootings at a Connecticut elementary school as he also took note of gun violence in Chicago.
Obama, tearing up, called for “meaningful action” to prevent more horrific tragedies after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in the shooting spree at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In his brief and heartfelt remarks — filled with pauses as Obama collected himself and wiped his eyes — the president said, “Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.”
Sadly, Obama noted, gun massacres occur all too often.
“As a country, 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 — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.
“And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.
Wiping his eyes, Obama said, “This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.”
The massacre prompted an outpouring of condolences, with the tragedy forging solidarity in grief.
House Speaker John Boehner canceled the weekly GOP address “so that President Obama can speak for the entire nation at this time of mourning. I join the president — and all Americans — in sending prayers and condolences to the victims’ loved ones.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We are all crushed by the news of today’s horrifying massacre in Newtown.”
Obama ordered flags flown at half-staff at federal installations and Boehner ordered flags over the U.S. Capitol to be lowered to half-staff because of the tragedy.
Obama spoke from the James S. Brady briefing room at the White House, named for President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary who was shot during the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan. Brady and his wife, Sarah, became crusaders in the ongoing battle to curb gun violence.
Obama did not offer any detail in his brief remarks about what the “meaningful action” might be, preferring to focus on sending his sympathies to the victims and their families and help the nation grapple and grieve with another heartbreaking shooting.
Before Obama spoke, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during the Friday briefing that “today is not the day” to discuss gun legislation, saying there will be “a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”