Obama, Tearful: Action Needed — and a Gun Control Rally Assembles

Photograph by Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he speaks about the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.

Updated at 4:30 pm EST

We heard only a brief mention of politics today, as the president swept aside tears for the fallen children of Newtown, Connecticut.

That mention, made in passing during President Barack Obama’s statement in the West Wing following the fatal shootings of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school today, included a call for governmental action.

The nation, Obama said in a televised appearance, will have to take some action against the carnage suffered too many times in too many communities — “regardless of politics.”

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” Obama said shortly after 3 pm EST today, hours after police were summoned by a 911 call from Sandy Hook Elementary School after 9:30 am.

“I know there is not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” the president said, speaking of the “beautiful little children between the ages of five and 10 years old” who died at that school today, then pausing and wiping tears from his eyes. “Our hearts are broken today, for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children.”

“Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well,” he said. “They know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them far too early.”

“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” said Obama, who during his term has traveled to Arizona to console a community shocked by the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at a public appearance. “Whether it is 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.”

Each time the news rings with random shootings — at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, this year, or at that mall in Happy Valley, Oregon, earlier this week  — talk of a political solution is stirred.

In a nation bearing repeated witness to community and schoolhouse shootings, each time, the politics of gun control are explained away as too difficult.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,” the president said at the White House today, “regardless of the  politics.”

This was a day for grieving and sympathy, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

“There… will be,” he said, “a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I don’t think today is that day.”

Outside the White House later, as the winter sun started setting early, a small rally for gun control was taking shape, with some 50 people assembling on the street.

Alexandra Wilson, 28, arrived on her bike holding a sign written in red paint: “Enough is enough.”

“The press secretary said this isn’t the time to talk about it, but it’s the time to talk about it,” she said. “I’m here to show my support. I know we’ve got plenty of other problems, the fiscal cliff and everything, but we cant forget about this. It’s happening too much.”

Emma Fidel contributed from outside the White House.

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