Newtown massacre anniversary brings fresh call for gun curbs
Anniversary of Connecticut school massacre sees renewed demands for Washington to act, with priest saying 32,000 have been shot dead since
Hundreds solemnly gathered in Washington's National Cathedral to mark the first anniversary of the Newtown school massacre and demand tougher action to halt gun violence in the United States.
Pop music icon Carole King performed her 1977 song In the Name of Love on the piano at Thursday's late-afternoon vigil, which organisers hoped would pull the media spotlight away from the still-grieving New England town where 20 first-grade pupils and six teachers were killed. The anniversary of the killings falls today.
The event also heard a violin and piano rendition of Imagine by musician John Lennon, who was shot and killed in New York 33 years ago this month.
"We gather to say, 'No more'," said Reverend Mel Kawakami of the Newtown United Methodist Church, as the predominantly older gathering lit candles, sang hymns and shared stories of other incidents of gun violence.
Reverend Gary Hall, dean of the Episcopal cathedral, called on the nation's elected leaders "to find the moral courage and the political will" to enact tougher gun laws.
In the 12 months since Newtown, Hall said, 32,000 people have died in the United States in gun-related incidents.
Adam Lanza, 22, used a military-style Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle during his December 14, shooting spree in the classrooms and hallways of Sandy Hook school, before shooting himself as police rushed to the scene.
Lanza had shot and killed his mother, who owned the guns he used, in her bed at home as a prelude to the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in the US after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 in which 33 died, including the lone gunman.
Newtown's civic leaders have urged reporters to stay away from their picturesque and affluent community two hours' drive from New York to enable it to mourn the victims and comfort each other in peace.
In a report last month, Connecticut state attorney Stephen Sedensky said Lanza had "significant mental health issues" and an unhealthy obsession with the Columbine high school massacre in Colorado in 1999 in which 15 died, including the two young gunmen.
But he concluded there was "no clear indication" of why the young man had carried out the carnage.
The majority of gun-related deaths in the US involve suicide. However, one group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says an "escalating epidemic of gun violence" is claiming a child's life every three hours and 15 minutes.
Newtown triggered calls for tougher gun laws, in a nation where there are estimated to be as many guns as people. But an attempt by President Barack Obama to outlaw semi-automatic rifles and expand background checks for buyers failed due to opposition from the National Rifle Association.
Meanwhile, Moms Demand Action has announced rallies in 35 states today, each featuring a communal ringing of bells "to remember the victims and show that the time for silence is over".