- POSTED: 15 Dec 2013 01:09
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle lit 26 candles and observed a moment of silence on Saturday in honour of the victims of last year's shooting at an elementary school.
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle lit 26 candles and observed a moment of silence on Saturday in honour of the victims of last year's shooting at an elementary school.
Exactly one year ago, on December 14, 2012, a heavily armed man, later identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, entered the school in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire with devastating effect.
In 10 minutes he killed 20 first graders and six teachers and staff before taking his own life. He had also shot his mother dead earlier that morning.
The senseless slaughter of young children at the hands of a mentally disturbed individual shocked America like no other mass shooting in years, but despite public condemnation it did not culminate in new US gun laws.
Wearing black, the Obamas sombrely lit candles in the White House map room for each victim of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. They stood silently for several moments and then walked out without making any remarks.
There was no public memorial planned in Newtown and the media has been asked to grant privacy to residents to mark the anniversary.
However, church bells rang 26 times in the town in memory of the victims and flags were at half-mast across the state of Connecticut, at the request of Governor Dannel Malloy.
Two groups, Mayors against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action, had organized memorials in more than 35 states in honour of the Newtown victims and "the thousands of Americans lost to gun violence every year."
The events aimed "to show our resolve to never be silent again about gun violence," the groups said in a statement.
The president also used his weekly radio address to mark the anniversary and urge Americans to press for gun law changes to prevent similar tragedies.
"One year ago today, a quiet, peaceful town was shattered by unspeakable violence," Obama said.
"We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds.
"We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for."
The Newtown massacre provoked a push for gun control laws and a handful of states have since tightened rules.
But the nationwide measures the president supported failed in the US Senate in April, due to fierce opposition from gun rights supporters and a lack of support in both houses of Congress.
On Saturday, most major media organizations stayed away from Newtown, in respect of the town's wishes.
"We've reported a number of stories already - all in a low-key, respectful manner - and they'll run in conjunction with the anniversary. We do not plan to be in Newtown on the 14th," said New York Times communications director Eileen Murphy. Other news agencies made similar remarks.
On Friday, the eve of the Sandy Hook anniversary, a schoolboy in Colorado armed with a shotgun opened fire at his high school and wounded two fellow students - one critically - before killing himself.
The Arapahoe High School shooting took place a few miles from the sites of last year's Aurora cinema shooting, where 12 people were killed and scores wounded during a Batman movie screening, and the 1999 Columbine High School bloodbath, where 13 were killed as well as the two student gunmen.