Connecticut school shooting

Sandy Hook school massacre rekindles US gun control debate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 8:01am

No one yet knows what transformed nerdy, small-town loner Adam Lanza into a black-clad monster who gunned down 26 people, including 20 young children, at an elementary school.

But as America comes to terms with a massacre whose death toll exceeded that of one of the most notorious US school shootings, the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School massacre, questions will be asked not just about his motive, but also about gun control.

Ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to Newtown to mourn the dead and console survivors, a top US Democrat said she would introduce a bill banning assault weapons as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.

"I'm going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons," Senator Dianne Feinstein of California told NBC's Meet the Press programme.

Obama's appearance at an interfaith vigil in the once-tranquil town will be watched closely for clues as to what he meant when he called for "meaningful action" to prevent such tragedies in the wake of the massacre on Friday.

For the president, this is the fourth trip of his presidency to a community still grieving from a mass shooting. Just last summer, Obama went to Aurora, Colorado, to visit victims and families after a shooting spree at a cinema left 12 people dead.

He went to Tucson, Arizona, in January of last year after six people were killed and 13 wounded, including then-Congress woman Gabrielle Giffords, outside a grocery store. And in November 2009, Obama travelled to Fort Hood, Texas, to speak at the memorial service for 13 service members who were killed by another soldier.

After killing his mother at home, Adam Lanza, 20, forced his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire on the children with a .223 calibre Bushmaster, a civilian version of the US military's M4 rifle, hitting some up to 11 times. The weapons were reportedly registered in his mother's name.

He also killed six adult women at the school and himself.

The victims included 16 six-year-olds and four seven-year-olds.

Lanza's father, Peter, expressed shock and grief at the horror caused by his son.

"No words can truly express how heartbroken we are," he said.

Associated Press, The New York Times, Agence France-Presse