Discuss as:

Obama vows action on gun violence: 'These tragedies must end'

Speaking at a vigil for families of the victims and other students from Sandy Hook Elementary, President Obama says, "God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on." Watch his entire speech.


President Barack Obama vowed to marshal the power of his office behind a nationwide effort to curb gun violence following an elementary school massacre last week in Newtown, Conn.

The president, speaking Sunday evening at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, said that the United States is "left with some hard questions" following the mass shooting, which left 20 children, seven adults and the suspected shooter dead.

He used the speech to lay down a marker, vowing to take action to address gun violence amid yet another high-profile mass shooting in his presidency.

"We can't tolerate this anymore," Obama said. "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."

"In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens … in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said.

Obama offered no specifics as to what type action he might take or legislation he might seek to address these incidences of violence. A top Senate Democrat said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that she would introduce legislation on the first day of the new Congress next year to re-institute a ban on assault weapons, something which Obama has previously endorsed but not actively sought. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va, says that while he's a proud gun-owner and NRA member, there needs to be a "sensible" and "reasonable" dialogue about gun legislation.

The call-to-action was weaved together with words from the president meant to console mourners in Newtown, with whom Obama met earlier in the day.

"This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged," Obama asked. "And by that measure, can we truly say that, as a nation, we're meeting our obligations?"

The president added: "I've been reflecting on this the past few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer's no. We're not doing enough. And we will have to change."

Obama's comments came in response to yet another mass casualty incident in America over the past few years. The most high-profile attacks include one against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, a shooting at a movie theater this past summer in Colorado and another shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in August.

Stephen Dunn / AP

President Barack Obama greets Gov. Dannel Malloy during his arrival at the start of an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.

None of those events managed to prompt a groundswell for political action to address gun rights and other underlying causes of these attacks.

An effort to address mass casualty events might also involve less politically touchy efforts, like boosting support for mental health. 

If Obama were to lead an effort to push gun control, though, he could meet resistance from the politically influential National Rifle Association and other gun rights' groups. Advocates of gun control, though, have urged Obama to throw political caution to the wind; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday that gun control should be Obama's "No. 1 agenda."