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10 months ago

Newtown asks for privacy, kindness on 1-year mark

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre are asking people to consider marking the anniversary with "acts of kindness."

The families of the 20 children and six educators killed at the school also announced a new website - http://mysandyhookfamily.org - with information on how the individual families are honoring the victims.

Saturday is the anniversary of the Dec. 14 massacre. Town officials are not hosting formal events that day. Officials including First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra asked at a news conference Monday for the media to give the town space as it urges people to mark the date in ways that are quiet and personal.

Local officials and members of Connecticut's congressional delegation are also appealing for acts of service and kindness to mark the anniversary.

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11 months ago

Conn. gunman once wrote of a mother shot in head

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Documents show the gunman in last year's Connecticut school shooting wrote a violent book in the fifth grade that included passages in which a character shoots his mother in the head.

The homemade manuscript is titled "The Big Book of Granny" and was among items seized from Adam Lanza's home. Details are in documents that were part of a report released Monday.

Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a rifle in Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. He fatally shot his mother in the head, then drove to the school, carried out the killings and committed suicide.

The documents say the main character in Lanza's book has a gun in her cane and shoots people. There's nothing to indicate Lanza ever handed the book in at school.

The son character sinks his mother to the bottom of the ocean with a "cement floatation device." Another character likes hurting people, especially children.

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11 months ago

Investigator releases report on Newtown shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Investigators have released a report on last year's shooting massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The summary of investigators' findings was written and released Monday by the prosecutor overseeing the probe, State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky III.

The report was initially expected over the summer and the projected release date was pushed back several times. Sedensky has come under pressure to release more information as the first anniversary of the Dec. 14 massacre approaches.

The gunman was 20-year-old Adam Lanza. He killed his mother at their Newtown home, fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators at the school, and killed himself as police arrived.

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1 year ago

Newtown marks 6 months since school massacre

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Newtown held a moment of silence Friday for the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School at a remembrance event that doubled as a call to action on gun control, with the reading of names of thousands of victims of gun violence.

Two sisters of slain teacher Victoria Soto asked the crowd gathered at Edmond Town Hall for a 26-second moment of silence, honoring the 20 children and six adults gunned down at the school on Dec. 14.

"This pain is excruciating and unbearable but thanks to people like you, that come out and support us, we are able to get through this," said Carlee Soto, who held hands with her sister Jillian before taking the stage.

The event then transitioned to the reading of the names of more than 6,000 people killed by gun violence since the tragedy in Newtown. The reading of names is expected to take 12 hours.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which organized the event in Newtown, also launched a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers. Such legislation failed in the Senate in April.

The mayors group is also holding events in 10 states calling for lawmakers to expand background checks and urging senators who opposed the bill to reconsider. Those events, which include gun violence survivors and gun owners, will be held in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The gunman in Newtown killed his mother and then the 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a semiautomatic rifle before committing suicide as police arrived.

Some of the victims' families are in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers for action. Jillian and Carlee Soto met with President Barack Obama as they campaign for gun control.

"He just told us to have faith," said Jillian Soto, 24. "It isn't something that happens overnight. It's something that you have to continue to fight for. Within good time we will have this passed and we will have change."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-founded the mayors group, this week sent a letter asking donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed the bill to expand background checks.

On the other side of the debate, the National Rifle Association is focusing on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who co-sponsored the bill to expand background checks, with a TV ad urging viewers to phone Manchin's office and tell him "to honor his commitment to the 2nd Amendment." The NRA plans to spend $100,000 airing the ad in West Virginia markets over the next two weeks.

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1 year ago

Senate blocks expanded gun sale background checks

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans, backed by rural-state Democrats, blocked legislation Wednesday to tighten restrictions on the sale of firearms, rejecting personal pleas made by families of the victims of last winter's mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Attempts to ban assault-style rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines also faced certain defeat in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided together to scuttle the plan.

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1 year ago

Crisis management at La. schools may increase

A 2001 state law that requires public schools to have a written crisis management plan would be toughened to require local law enforcement to be involved in plan design, under a proposal that received approval Wednesday from the House Education Committee.

Safety drills would be required each year to rehearse the crisis response blueprint, and the plans would have to be reviewed annually, if the full Legislature agrees to the bill (House Bill 79) by Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville.

The measure, approved without objection and heading next to the House floor for debate, was prompted by the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

The shootings in Newtown, Conn., were the second-largest school shooting in the country's history. A gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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1 year ago

Conn. officials seek info from Newtown charities

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut officials are seeking more information about the amount of money collected and the intended purposes of dozens of charities related to the Newtown school shooting.

Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein sent out letters Thursday with a short survey to 69 charities registered with the state or identified as having accepted donations related to the tragedy.

The letter says donors need information to help make informed giving decisions and to understand the purposes for which their gifts will be used.

Officials cited estimates that more than $15 million has been donated to Newtown-related charities since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December in which 20 children and six educators were killed.

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1 year ago

Conn. mulls death certificate limits after Newtown

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A town clerk told Connecticut legislators Friday that she's been inundated with requests for copies of death certificates of Newtown school shooting victims and believes much of that information should not be released to the public.

Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia said she's concerned certain details on the documents, such as a mother's maiden name or a cemetery name, could be misused by identity thieves or used by the media and others to contact family members during their time of grief.

"They want to know where the victims are buried and how they died," she told members of the General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee on Friday. "This is an extreme invasion of privacy."

Aurelia said she knows of families who have been threatened and intimidated since the Dec. 14 massacre, which left 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School dead. But Aurelia told The Associated Press that her office has not yet released any requested death certificates.

Rep. Dan Carter, a Republican whose district includes a part of Newtown, proposed the bill discussed at Friday's public hearing. It would exempt the death certificates of minors from public disclosure for 10 years, although he said he supports releasing a portion of the information.

"I don't want to see in a year from now, B-roll footage of a kid's grave from Newtown," he said. "That's one of those things. We look at this and we go, why do people really need that part of it from a public standpoint?"

According to Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen, Connecticut is one of only a handful of states that allow unrestricted access to death records. She said most states restrict public access to the entire death certificate, redact some information or provide something called a certification of death, which is a separate document that only includes the name of the dead person and the date and place of their death.

Aurelia wants all death certificates exempt from public disclosure without time limits, but she said she would be willing to release an abridged document that includes some information such as the name, gender, date and time of death, city of death and the manner of death, such as homicide or suicide

She said she doesn't want to release the immediate cause of death, such as multiple gunshot wounds, or details such as where the person is buried, whether the body was embalmed and the mother's maiden name.

Two other public records bills have been raised during Connecticut's legislative session this year that stem from the Newtown shooting.

One calls for withholding the death certificate of a child from the public if such a disclosure would cause undue hardship for the child's family. The other would make sure personal identifying information is not included in both death and marriage certificates when requested by members of the public who are not associated with the family, the funeral home making arrangements or the deceased person's physician.

Open records advocates and genealogists oppose such efforts.

Robert Rafford, a professional genealogist from Middlebury, said he's inspected thousands of death certificates and has not seen any evidence that families could be harmed by releasing the information they contain. He said the proposals would severely restrict access to vital records.

"If I thought for one solitary moment that enacting this unprecedented legislation would be of help to the families in our state, I would unhesitatingly support it," said Rafford, a retired marriage and family therapist. "But there is no benefit to be gained by depriving our citizens of a right they have exercised for four centuries. None, whatsoever."

In written testimony, the state's Freedom of Information Commission said it was sympathetic to the desire to protect the families of deceased minors but said most sensitive information surrounding any death is already exempt form mandatory disclosure. The most graphic information is contained in autopsy reports, which are largely unavailable to the general public, the commission said.

Both the commission and the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information raised concerns about the proposal to withhold the death certificates of minors for 10 years. Each group brought up the issue of children dying in state custody and the importance of that information being public.

"Death certificates are critical in reporting and research on a wide variety of legal and public health issues," said Claude Albert, legislative chair of the council, in submitted testimony. "In addition, this bill makes no provision for the cases of children who die in state custody, which must always be subject to close public scrutiny."

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1 year ago

Slain Newtown educators to be honored with medals

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Presidential medals will be awarded posthumously to the six people who died protecting children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, officials said Tuesday.

The principal, school psychologist and four teachers who were killed in the Dec. 14 massacre will be among the recipients of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, according to a White House official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the honorees have not been officially announced.

The staff members slain inside the Newtown, Conn. school have been credited with protecting the students when a gunman attacked the building. Some rushed toward the gunman while others used their bodies to shielded children from gunfire.

The shooter killed the six adults and 20 first-graders in two classrooms with a military-style semi-automatic rifle before committing suicide.

"These extraordinary educators, who sacrificed their lives to protect students in their care, gave a profound new dimension to the meaning of public service," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. "All of America has been awed by the story of their strength, bravery and caring reflected in this honor."

The honorees are principal Dawn Hochsprung, psychologist Mary Sherlach and teachers Rachel D'Avino, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Marie Murphy and Victoria Soto. The medals are to be presented to family members of the victims at a White House ceremony on Feb. 15.

The award honors Americans who have performed "exemplary deeds of service" for their country or fellow citizens. It is generally recognized as the government's second-highest civilian award.

Authorities have not provided a possible motive for the 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, who killed his mother inside their Newtown home before driving to the school to carry out the massacre.

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1 year ago

Newtown parents urge enforcement of gun laws

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting called for better enforcement of gun laws and tougher penalties for violators Monday at a hearing that revealed the divide in the gun-control debate, with advocates for gun rights shouting at the father of one 6-year-old victim.

Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was killed in last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, asked people in the room to put themselves in his position as he questioned the need for any civilian to own semiautomatic, military-style weapons.

"It's not a good feeling. Not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. It's a real sad thing," said Heslin, who held up a large framed photograph of himself and his son.

A handful of people at the packed legislative hearing then shouted about their Second Amendment rights when Heslin asked if anyone could provide a reason for a civilian to own an assault-style weapon.

"We're all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts," Heslin said. "But I wish they'd respect mind and give it a little bit of thought."

The hearing by a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws offered the first public testimony by family members of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman slaughtered 20 first-grade children and six women. Adam Lanza had killed his mother in their home across town and then drove to the school to carry out the shooting before committing suicide.

Many gun rights advocates, wearing yellow stickers that read: "Another Responsible Gun Owner," were among the estimated 2,000 people at the hearing. Metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Legislative Office Building, and some people waited as long as two hours to get into the building in Hartford.

Many spoke about the need to protect their rights and their families' safety.

"The Second Amendment does not protect our right to hunt deer," said Andrew Hesse of Middletown. "It protects our right to self-preservation and preservation of our family. The right to bear arms."

Elizabeth Drysdale, a single mother from Waterbury, spoke of three recent incidents that caused her to fear for her safety. She said she should be able to choose the size of magazine and type of firearm to defend herself.

"Don't my children and I deserve your support and consideration to be safe," she asked lawmakers.

Judy Aron of West Hartford said bills such as those requiring gun owners to have liability insurance and ammunition taxes only harm lawful gun owners.

"Every gun owner did not pull the trigger that was pulled by Adam Lanza, she said.

The state's gun manufacturers, meanwhile, urged the subcommittee to not support legislation that could put the state's historic gun manufacturing industry at risk.

Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was killed at Sandy Hook, got a standing ovation when he said there are plenty of gun laws but they're not properly enforced. He urged lawmakers to address the culture of violence.

"It's a simple concept. We need civility across our nation," he said. "What we're seeing are symptoms of a bigger problem. This is a symptom. The problem is not gun laws. The problem is a lack of civility."

Two Southbury natives who survived a mass shooting last year at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., urged lawmakers to address online, private guns sales that don't require background checks. Stephen Barton and Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent also want to require background checks for purchases of so-called long guns and not just handguns.

State Rep. Arthur O'Neill, R-Southbury, who has known Rodriguez-Torrent since he was a child, predicted state lawmakers will reach a compromise on guns.

He said lawmakers' minds have changed since the Dec. 14 school massacre.

"Dec. 13 was one way of looking at the world, and Dec. 15 is a different way of looking at the world," he said.

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1 year ago

Obama proposing gun limits, faces tough obstacles

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is launching the nation's most sweeping effort to curb gun violence in nearly two decades, urging a reluctant Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like those used in last month's massacre of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Conn.

The broad package Obama will announce Wednesday is expected to include more than a dozen steps the president can take on his own through executive action. Those measures will provide a pathway for skirting opposing lawmakers, but they will be limited in scope, and in some cases, focused simply on enforcing existing laws.

But Congress would have to approve the bans on assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets, along with a requirement for universal background checks on gun buyers. Some gun control advocates worry that opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats, as well as the National Rifle Association, will be too great to overcome.

"We're not going to get an outright ban," Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., said of limits on assault weapons. Still, McCarthy, a leading voice in Congress in favor of gun control, said she would keep pushing for a ban and hoped Obama would as well.

White House officials, seeking to avoid setting the president up for failure, have emphasized that no single measure - even an assault weapons ban - would solve a scourge of gun violence across the country. But without such a ban, or other sweeping Congress-approved measures, it's unclear whether executive actions alone can make any noticeable difference.

"It is a simple fact that there are limits to what can be done within existing law," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. "Congress has to act on the kinds of measures we've already mentioned because the power to do that is reserved by Congress."

New York's Assembly on Tuesday easily passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Connecticut school shootings. The statewide measure includes a tougher assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who make threats.

Obama will announce his proposals in a midday event at the White House, flanked by children who wrote to him about gun violence following the massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Law enforcement officials, mayors from across the country and supportive congressional lawmakers are also expected to attend.

Obama has pledged urgent action to prevent future mass shootings, and his plan - coming just one month after the Newtown attacks - is swift by Washington standards.

The president's framework is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who led a wide-ranging task force on gun violence. Beyond the gun control measures, Biden also gave Obama suggestions for improving mental health care and addressing violent images in video games, movies and television.

The vice president's proposals included 19 steps that could be achieved through executive action.

Obama may order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted. Such a step has support from the National Rifle Association, which has consistently argued that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered.

He also could take steps ordering federal agencies to make more data on gun crimes available and conduct more research on the issue, something Republican congressional majorities have limited through language in budget bills. And he may order tougher penalties against gun trafficking and give schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Gun control proponent Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who met with Biden on Monday, said the president is also likely to take executive action to ensure better state reporting of mental health and other records that go into the federal background check database. But he, too, acknowledged there were clear limits to what Obama can do without Congress' say-so.

"You can't change the law through executive order," Scott said.

White House officials signaled that Obama would seek to rally public support for the measures he puts forward, perhaps holding events around the country or relying on Organizing for America, his still-operational presidential campaign.

"The president's success in using this strategy, I think, is pretty notable," Carney said of Obama's efforts to engage the public in previous legislative fights. "He'll absolutely continue to engage with the American people on the policy proposals he's putting forward."

Still, it's unclear how much political capital Obama will exert in pressing for congressional action.

The White House and Capitol Hill will soon be consumed by three looming fiscal deadlines, each of which is expected to be contentious. And the president has also pledged to tackle comprehensive immigration reform early this year, another effort that will require Republicans' support and one in which Obama may be more likely to get their backing.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the chamber's top Republican, has warned the White House that it will be at least three months before the Senate considers gun legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said it is immigration, not gun control, that is at the top of his priority list after the fiscal fights.

House Republican leaders are expected to wait for any action by the Senate before deciding how - or whether - to proceed with any gun measure. Publicly, House GOP leaders are being careful not to rule anything out ahead of Obama's announcement.

"I can't respond to any particulars because I haven't even looked at the Biden recommendations, but I can tell you we're all very concerned about the deaths that occurred and the innocent lives lost, and if we bear that in mind, the kinds of things we can do to help make that not happen again," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Tuesday.

Privately, House Republicans voice skepticism that the debate will even get to the point of Senate action that would require a response by the House.

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1 year ago

NY to OK 1st state gun law since Newtown massacre

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York lawmakers were preparing to approve the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, calling for a stricter assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.

The Democrat-led Assembly debated the measure Tuesday but was expected to easily pass it. It passed the Senate run by a Republican-dominated coalition late Monday night. Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped craft the legislation and pledged to sign it quickly.

"I am proud, as I know that others are, that New York is taking the lead on this issue because we must prevent and protect our public from the mass destruction that can now take place in literally seconds because we do allow our citizens to own weaponry," said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat and co-sponsor. "This moves us toward that goal ... we believe it is up to us to lead the way."

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, a Long Island Democrat, said there will be fewer guns in New York "because of the bold action we will take today. Now, hopefully the other states of the union and the federal government will follow."

But Republicans said the restrictions may be good politics for Cuomo but are bad government for New Yorkers.

Republican Assemblyman Marc Butler accused Cuomo of issuing the bill "by fiat" instead of a democratic process that should have included time for public hearings and debate. Cuomo had issued an order that suspends the three days' public review for bills required under the state constitution. Some senators said late Monday night they had seen the lengthy bill for 20 minutes before the debate and vote began.

"We're trampling on our constitutional rights," Butler said in Tuesday's floor debate. "We make a sham of the legislative process. ... We reached a point in our history where government has gone too far in every aspect of our lives."

Cuomo on Monday called assault weapons "a scourge on society" six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his agenda in his State of the State address. The bipartisan effort was fueled by the Newtown tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. "At what point do you say, 'No more innocent loss of life'?"

The measure also calls for restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns. It is expected to pass Tuesday.

"This is not about taking anyone's rights away," said Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat. "It's about a safe society ... today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."

Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two "military rifle" features, such as folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The proposal would reduce that to one feature, including the popular pistol grip. The language specifically targeted the military-style rifle used in the Newtown shootings.

Current owners of those guns will have to register them.

Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family member would be subject to a background check through a dealer. New Yorkers also would be barred from buying assault weapons over the Internet, and failing to safely store a weapon could lead to a misdemeanor charge.

Ammunition magazines would be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 10, and current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.

Stores that sell ammunition will have to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.

In another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state. A patient's gun could be taken from him or her.

The legislation also increases sentences for gun crimes including the shooting of a first responder that Cuomo called the "Webster provision." Last month in the western New York town of Webster, two firefighters were killed after responding to a fire set by the shooter, who eventually killed himself.

The measure passed the Senate 43-18 on the strength of support from Democrats, many of whom previously sponsored bills that were once blocked by Republicans.

The governor confirmed the proposal, previously worked out in closed session, also would mandate a police registry of assault weapons, grandfathering in assault weapons already in private hands.

It was agreed upon exactly a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

"It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment," said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.

Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition. He estimates there are already about 1 million assault weapons in New York state.

Assemblyman Steve Katz said legislators were being "bullied." He said the bill is "solely for the governor's egotistical, misguided notion."

Republicans argued the bill wouldn't stop mass shootings or other gun crimes but instead turns law-abiding into potential criminals.

Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being."

"You are using innocent children killed by a mad man for own political agenda," he said. "You are actually making people less safe."

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1 year ago

Obama weighing executive action on guns

WASHINGTON (AP) - Facing powerful opposition to sweeping gun regulations, President Barack Obama is weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone, congressional officials said. But the scope of such measures is limited.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposals Wednesday, barely over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., thrust the gun issue into the national spotlight after years of inaction by Obama and lawmakers.

At the same time Obama is vowing not to back off his support for sweeping gun legislation that would require congressional backing - including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal background checks - despite opposition from the influential gun lobby.

"Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know," Obama said at a news conference Monday.

"My starting point is not to worry about the politics," he said. "My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works."

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force and is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself, using his presidential powers.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress.

Officials said Obama and Biden met Monday afternoon to discuss the vice president's recommendations. Ahead of that meeting, Biden huddled with a dozen House Democrats who have formed their own gun violence task force and whose political muscle will be needed to push legislation through Congress.

Biden told those lawmakers that he and his staff had identified 19 steps Obama could take without help from Congress, according to Jenny Werwa, communications director to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., one of those present. Biden didn't indicate which of those Obama would adopt.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., another lawmaker at the meeting, said one example is working to ensure better state reporting of mental health and other records that go into the federal background check database. But Scott said there are clear limits to what Obama can do without Congress' say-so.

"It wasn't anything remarkable, it was just administering present law better," Scott said. "You can't change the law through executive order."

Among other steps, advocacy groups have been pushing Obama to order the Justice Department to crack down on those who lie on background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted. Such a step has support from the National Rifle Association, which has consistently argued that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered.

Obama also could take steps ordering federal agencies to make more data on gun crimes available and conduct more research on the issue, something Republican congressional majorities have limited through language in budget bills, advocates said.

The president's proposals are also expected to include steps for improving school safety and mental health care, as well as recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment and video games.

"You'll have a combination of gun safety, mental health and general prevention," Scott said.

Another Democratic lawmaker who met with Biden on Monday said the vice president was likely to have given Obama proposals for allowing schools flexibility in spending federal grant money so they could take steps toward safety, including hiring school resource officers, instituting mental health intervention or making repairs like putting locks on doors. Grants could also go to communities to institute programs to get guns away from people who shouldn't have them, said the lawmaker, adding these were steps the president could take without Congress.

The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals hadn't been announced publicly.

But the most sweeping and contentious elements - including an assault weapons ban - will require approval from Congress. The NRA has vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition, a hardline position that could sway some Republicans and conservative Democrats.

The assault weapons ban, which Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road on Capitol Hill. Congress passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade, military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters didn't have the votes to renew it once it expired.

Obama will also need congressional help to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones used by the Newtown shooter, and to require background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said some 40 percent of gun sales happen with no background checks, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads.

Parents of the slain Connecticut children added their voices to the national dialogue Monday. Members of the newly formed group Sandy Hook Promise called for an open-minded discussion about a range of issues, including guns. And lawmakers in New York state pressed ahead with what would be the nation's first gun control measure approved since the school shootings.

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1 year ago

Newtown shooting survivors record song for charity

NEW YORK (AP) - Children who survived last month's shooting rampage at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School have recorded a version of "Over the Rainbow" to raise money for charity.

Twenty-one children from Newtown, Conn., performed the song Tuesday with singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson on ABC's "Good Morning America." Most of them are current and former students of the school, where 20 first-graders and six staff members were killed.

They recorded "Over the Rainbow" on Monday at the Fairfield, Conn., home of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, two former members of the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club rock bands. Copies went on sale Tuesday on Amazon and iTunes, with proceeds benefiting the United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Youth Academy.

Kayla Verga, 10, said she was singing for a friend, 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, who was killed in the massacre.

"Singing the song makes me feel like she's with me and she's beside me, singing along with me," Kayla told "GMA."

Another girl, 10-year-old Sandy Hook student Jane Shearin, added, "I really want to be kind to the people who have lost their loved ones and help them to recover from their sorrow."

Gunman Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree with a semiautomatic rifle in the school on Dec. 14 after having killed his mother at their home in Newtown. He fatally shot himself as police arrived at the school. It's still unclear what motivated the attack.

The Sandy Hook children have returned to classes in a neighboring town at a building renamed for their old school. Newtown officials and residents have begun discussing what to do with the school where the shootings occurred.

Some parents of children killed in the massacre spoke out Monday, calling for a national dialogue to help prevent similar tragedies.

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1 year ago

Newtown parents want police to stay at schools

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Some parents in Newtown are calling for police to stay at town schools indefinitely, saying the sight of uniformed officers is a comfort to their children in a town reeling from last month's massacre inside an elementary school.

School officials say they've received many emails voicing concern about long-term security. The district has had two officers at each of its six schools since the shooting on Dec. 14 that left 20 children and six staff members dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson also wants the police presence to continue. She says children have not ventured outside school for recess because of anxiety.

Parents askedNewtown parents want police to stay at schools
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JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Some parents in Newtown are calling for police to stay at town schools indefinitely, saying the sight of uniformed officers is a comfort to their children in a town reeling from last month's massacre inside an elementary school.

School officials say they've received many emails voicing concern about long-term security. The district has had two officers at each of its six schools since the shooting on Dec. 14 that left 20 children and six staff members dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson also wants the police presence to continue. She says children have not ventured outside school for recess because of anxiety.

Parents asked the Police Commission and Board of Education this week to continue to provide police at the schools. the Police Commission and Board of Education this week to continue to provide police at the schools.

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1 year ago

Sandy Hook kids face 1st classes since shooting

MONROE, Conn. (AP) - The youngsters who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary returned to class Thursday for the first time since the shooting rampage, settling in at their old, familiar desks but in a different school in a different town.

Classes resumed for the first time since last month's shooting in Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

With their original school still being treated as a crime scene, the more than 400 students are attending classes at a refurbished school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Law enforcement officers have been guarding the new school, and by the reckoning of police, it is "the safest school in America."

The school district said parents who want to be close to their children are welcome to visit and stay in classrooms or an auditorium throughout the day. Parents were encouraged to have their children take the bus to help them return to familiar routines.

Still, Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson said officials will do their best to make the students feel at ease.

"We will go to our regular schedule," she said. "We will be doing a normal day."

Returning students, teachers and administrators were met by a large police presence on a sunny and cold day with temperatures hovering near 10 degrees Several police officers were guarding the entrance to the school, and were checking IDs of parents dropping off children.

On Wednesday, the students and their families were welcomed at an open house at their new school, which was formerly the Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe but renamed as the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Students received gift boxes with toys inside and shared joyful reunions with teachers.

Teams of workers, many of them volunteers, prepared the Chalk Hill school and even raised bathroom floors so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets. The students' backpacks and other belongings that were left behind following the shooting were taken to the new school to make them feel at home.

Students found the same chairs and desks, when possible. Their classroom walls were painted the same colors and hung with the same pictures. Other details, such as the location of bookshelves and cubby holes, were replicated as much as possible.

One father, Vinny Alvarez, took a moment at the open house to thank his third-grade daughter's teacher, Courtney Martin, who protected the class from a rampaging gunman by locking her classroom door and keeping the children in a corner.

"Everybody there thanked her in their own way," he said.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at the home they shared in Newtown before driving to the school and gunning down students and educators, including the school's principal. Lanza fatally shot himself as police arrived. Police haven't released any details about a motive.

Numerous police officers on Wednesday guarded the outside of the Monroe school, which is about 7 miles from the old school, and told reporters to stay away.

"I think right now it has to be the safest school in America," Monroe police Lt. Keith White said.

Teachers attended staff meetings at the new school on Wednesday morning and were visited by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before the open house, White said.

Robinson said Chalk Hill School has been transformed into a "cheerful" place for the surviving students to resume normal school routines. She said mental health counselors continue to be available for anyone who needs them.

During the open house, Alvarez said his 8-year-old daughter also got to pick out a stuffed animal to take home from the school library.

"I'm not worried about her going back," he said of his daughter Cynthia. "The fear kind of kicks back in a little bit, but we're very excited for her and we got to see many, many kids today. The atmosphere was very cheerful."

Several signs welcoming the Sandy Hook students to their new school were posted along the road leading to the school in a rural, mostly residential neighborhood. One said "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary Kids," while a similar sign added "You are in our prayers."

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1 year ago

Sandy Hook students, teachers head back to school

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Classes are starting Thursday at a repurposed school for students who survived a shooting rampage three weeks ago in Newtown, Conn.

Desks have been taken to the new building in nearby Monroe along with backpacks and other belongings left behind in the chaos following the Dec. 14 shooting.

Families have been coming in to see the new school, and an open house is scheduled for Wednesday.

David Connors is the father of 8-year-old triplets who escaped unharmed. He says his children have suffered nightmares and jumped at noises.

Experts say it's important for children to get back to a routine and for teachers and parents to offer sensitive reassurances.

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1 year ago

Kleckly Issues Response to Newtown Shootings

Chuck Kleckly, the speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, has issued the following statement regarding last Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

"We in Louisiana should take special notice of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While we grieve with the families of Newtown, we as legislators need to ask if there are lessons to learn and apply to our own hometown schools.

Louisiana currently has laws in place to ensure our schools are prepared to respond to on-campus violence. Those laws, for example, require emergency plans, forbid weapons and body armor on school campuses, and allow schools to have police officers on campus daily.

I have talked to many members across the state, and it is clear that we should evaluate and question the policies and procedures of our schools to determine if our children are as safe as possible.

For these reasons, I have asked Rep. John Schroder, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, to convene a meeting of the committee early next year. The purpose will be to look carefully at the lessons we can learn from the Newtown tragedy and review our existing laws and procedures concerning school safety. The committee will discuss if we as a state need to take further action to make sure our children are free to learn, play and grow in peace and safety."

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1 year ago

Gun advocates conflicted on changes after massacre

KITTERY, Maine (AP) - In a region where gun ownership is a cherished right, holiday shoppers snake through rows of shotguns, pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles at the Kittery Trading Post. The school massacre in Connecticut - and potential changes to firearms laws because of it - is fresh on their minds.

AR-15 assault rifles in particular have been flying off the shelves here and elsewhere, according to a trade group that attributes the sales boom to fears among gun owners that the weapon - the same used by a gunman at an elementary school to kill 26 people, including 20 young children- will be outlawed.

Among the aisles packed with bullets and used firearms, shoppers say they are deeply conflicted about the proper response to the massacre.

"If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns," says 51-year-old gun owner Perry Clark, sharing a quote from his father.

But asked about the need for semi-automatic assault rifles, Perry, the father of a first-grader, strikes a different tone: "Assault rifles are designed to assault. They're designed to kill," he says, adding that he's been deeply disturbed by the school shootings. "I'm very leery of assault rifles."

In interviews that provide a snapshot of what some gun owners are feeling, most agreed with President Barack Obama's recent declaration that changes are needed to protect America's children. Some questioned the need for automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons. Others said there should be more background checks or mental health exams for gun owners. And most called for greater emphasis on mental health and school safety.

"Teachers should be armed," 24-year-old Danny Allen said this week, after browsing the Trading Post's gun section. Allen, on active duty with the Navy, argued that tightening gun laws is unnecessary because "criminals don't abide by gun laws." He defended the need for semi-automatic weapons, saying: "With semi-automatic, it's easier to kill a deer. With semi-automatic, it'll be easier to kill the person trying to kill your kids."

Firearms are in a third or more of U.S. households and suspicion runs deep of an overbearing government whenever it proposes expanding federal authority. The argument of gun-rights advocates that firearm ownership is a bedrock freedom as well as a necessary option for self-defense has proved persuasive enough to dampen political enthusiasm for substantial change after recent mass shootings.

That may be changing.

A growing number of Democratic politicians - even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had previously taken pro-gun positions for years, and moderate gun owners like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin - have indicated an openness to tighten gun laws. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce a bill next year that would renew the expired ban on newly purchased assault weapons in addition to restricting clips or drums that hold more than 10 bullets. And even some Republicans now say they're willing to discuss the politically treacherous issue of gun control along with mental health issues and violent video games.

Some gun owners appear to be anticipating changes in the law, buying up certain types of firearms while they're still permitted.

Andrew Molchan, director of the Professional Gun Dealers Association, said Tuesday that sales of the AR-15 - the same rifle Adam Lanza used in Newtown, Conn. - have increased across the country.

"It's what you might expect especially when people start talking about banning certain guns," Molchan said. "I would be surprised if there is much inventory on the shelves anywhere at this point."

Other gun owners in states like Maine are reaching out to their elected officials to ensure their interests are protected.

"I've been contacted by Mainers on all sides of this issue," said Rep. Maine Michaud, a moderate Democrat who represents much of the rural part of the state. "Some are looking for reforms to our gun laws as they relate to assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and others are concerned about restrictions on their constitutionally protected rights."

The challenge for lawmakers in the months ahead will be striking the right balance between protecting the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms with the expressed need by Republicans and Democrats alike to protect young Americans.

Polling offers mixed messages for politicians looking for guidance.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in the days after the Connecticut massacre showed roughly half or more favoring a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. But seven in 10 were opposed to banning the sale of handguns to anyone except law enforcement officers.

The voices of gun owners here and elsewhere illustrate their struggle to square issues of rights and safety.

At a Charleston, W. Va., mall, 31-year-old Republican Chris Feldhaus suggested he was open to new restrictions on assault weapons.

"But you've got to protect yourself. Because if you take guns away, then how do we protect ourselves against the criminals that are going to find them regardless?" he said.

The father of three doesn't own a gun, saying his wife doesn't feel comfortable with them. But the recent shootings changed his mind.

"Now I will probably be buying a gun," Feldhaus said. "I've been wanting to get one. There's too much going on with the world."

In Virginia, retired salesman Mike Graham said he has "deep concern" that the Connecticut shooting will result in tighter gun laws.

"Once you start saying, 'This gun is good, this gun is bad,' it becomes blurred, then they're all bad. And that's wrong. You end up everything is illegal," said Graham, 57, as he left a Richmond gun shop and shooting range.

Back at the Kittery Trading Post, Clark declared that he has no confidence that Washington politicians will fix the problem.

"I think Washington screws up everything they touch," he says. "I think it needs to be dealt with at the state level."

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1 year ago

Obama 'actively supportive' of assault weapons ban

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama is "actively supportive" of efforts on Capitol Hill to reinstate an assault weapons ban.

Obama has long backed the ban, but has failed to push for it throughout his first term. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce legislation to reinstate the ban early next year.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama would also support legislation to close the gun show "loophole," which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.

The president has pledged to address gun violence in the coming weeks following Friday's deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama spoke Tuesday with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and avid hunter who is now supportive of a national discussion on preventing gun violence.

1 year ago

Unspecified threat forces Newtown school lockdown

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A school principal at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school says it has been locked down due to unspecified threats.

Most schools in Newtown opened on Tuesday, four days after a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But in a letter to parents published by WFSB-TV, the principal says students at Head O'Meadow Elementary School should stay home because police were prepared to have the school in lockdown. School officials said the lockdown was normal procedure because some threats were predicted by police.

All other schools in town, except Sandy Hook, opened on Tuesday.

A police dispatcher would not confirm the lockdown.

1 year ago

Dick's stores suspend sales of certain rifles

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A sporting goods chain says it's suspending sales of modern rifles nationwide because of the school shooting in Connecticut.

Dick's Sporting Goods also says it's removing all guns from display at its store closest to Newtown, where the massacre took place.

Authorities say a gunman killed 26 people, mostly children, with a military-style rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday after killing his mother. He then killed himself.

A statement posted on Dick's website expresses sympathy for the victims' families. It says sales of modern sporting rifles will be suspended during "this time of national mourning."

Dick's declined to answer Associated Press questions about how long the suspension would last or which weapons were being pulled.

Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. has more than 500 stores in 44 states.

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1 year ago

Dogs arrive in Newtown to comfort survivors

CHICAGO - A team of golden retrievers made an 800-mile journey from the Chicago area to Newtown, Conn., over the weekend to comfort people affected by the shootings Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lutheran Church Charities sent about 10 of the dogs for residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog's handler, said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison, Ill., organization.

"Dogs are nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone," Hetzner said. "It creates the atmosphere for people to share."

The dogs often visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and parks. Each dog carries a business card with its name, Facebook page, Twitter account and email address.
"The dogs have become the bridge," said Lynn Buhrke, 66, who is a dog handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie. "People just sit down and talk to you."
"You could tell which ones ...were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet," Hetzner said. "They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet."

The dogs have been helpful even to those without children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the massacre occurred Friday, organizers said.

"I asked (one man) how he is doing. He just kind of teared up and said: "This year, I've lost five loved ones and now this happened,' " Hetzner said. "The whole town is suffering."
The comfort-dog initiative first started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University after a gunman killed five students. A group of dog caretakers associated with Lutheran Church Charities went to the campus to provide a distraction to the student community.

The trip was so successful that weeks later students petitioned university leadership to bring comfort dogs back to campus, Hetzner said.

The initiative has grown from a handful of dogs in the Chicago area to 60 dogs in six different states, he said.

PICS COURTESY OF ALLISON JOYCE FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

AP/PICS COURTESY OF ALLISON JOYCE FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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AP/PICS COURTESY OF ALLISON JOYCE FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

AP/PICS COURTESY OF ALLISON JOYCE FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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1 year ago

Business to Create Quilts for Families of Sandy Hook Victims

A Lafayette business is asking for Acadiana's help to bring comfort to families of the victims of the Newtown shooting. Kash Kreations is taking donations that will be used to purchase materials for quilts that will be donated to Sandy Hook Elementary School and the victims' families. Leftover funds will be donated directly to the school. For more information, call 337-886-6204.

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1 year ago

Candlelight vigil for CT victims scheduled in Patterson

A candlelight vigil, in memory of the children and teachers who died in the CT school shootings will be held Wednesday, Dec. 12 in Patterson. Ladies Of Destine Elite Social Club will host the vigil, and guest speakers are Mayor Rodney A. Grogan, Police Chief Patrick LaSalle and a representative from Chez Hope, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence.

The vigil is scheduled for 6:00 at Patterson City Hall at LA 1314 Main Street. Also, organizers say they'll honor a recent victim of domestic violence. Dominique Bennett, of Patterson, was found dead last week. Junior Weston, 46, is charged with first degree murder.

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1 year ago

Funeral Underway for Conneticut School Shooting Victims

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - The first two funerals for victims of last week's school shooting are under way in Connecticut. Six-year-old Jack Pinto was a big New York Giants fan. Noah Pozner was the same age and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. They're among 20 children who were killed in their school Friday along with six adults. The 20-year-old gunman also killed his mother and himself.

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1 year ago

Victims Join NYC Mayor, Call for Tougher Gun Laws

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and dozens of shooting survivors and victims' relatives are calling on Congress and President Barack Obama to tighten gun laws and enforcement. The mayor was appearing at City Hall Monday with 34 people whose own lives or the lives of their relatives have been rent by gun violence around the country. They're sending videos to lawmakers telling their stories.
Bloomberg has long been an advocate for tougher national gun regulations. He has found himself at the forefront of a re-energized push for gun control since Friday's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. He says the carnage "demands immediate national action."

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1 year ago

Candlelight vigil set for tonight

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school is planned for tonight at 6:00 at the shops at Martial Plaza on Kaliste Saloom. The public is invited to attend.

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1 year ago

As Lanza's parents divorced, no hint of bitterness

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - When the parents of Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza divorced in 2009, their legal documents offer no hints of an acrimonious split and make no mention of any lingering mental health or medical issues for the then-teenage boy.

Under the terms of the divorce, Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, received $289,800 in alimony this year.

There is no evidence of bitterness in the court file, no exchange of accusations or drawn out custody disputes.

Nancy and Peter Lanza had joint legal custody of Adam but he lived with his mother. The parents agreed to consult and discuss major decisions affecting Adam's best interests. In instances where the parents couldn't agree, Nancy Lanza "shall make the final decision," Judge Stanley Novak wrote on Sept. 24, 2009.

The couple married in June 1981 in Kingston, N.H. The divorce file said the marriage "has broken down irretrievably and there is no possibility of getting back together."

As part of the divorce, Nancy Lanza was ordered to attend a parenting education program. The provider, Family Centers Inc., certified that she completed the program on June 3 and June 10, 2009. The document says only that Lanza "satisfactorily completed the program."

The documents say Adam Lanza has lived his entire life at the Newtown home where he shot his mother to death. After shooting her, he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning and killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life.

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1 year ago

Friend: Guns a hobby for mother of school shooter

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A friend of the mother of the man who killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school says guns were simply a hobby for her.

John Bergquist told NBC's "Today" show on Monday that Nancy Lanza loved the arts and culture and that shooting was one of her hobbies, and that she was not a survivalist.

Nancy Lanza was found dead in her bed on Friday, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Another friend, Ellen Adriani, told the "Today" show that Lanza was a devoted mother.

She says Nancy Lanza always made herself available to Adam and his needs. She says he came first with his mother.

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1 year ago

W.Va.'s Manchin: Time to rethink gun legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Joe Manchin, an avid hunter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, says it's time for all sides in the gun policy debate to move beyond the political rhetoric and begin an honest discussion about reasonable restrictions on guns.

The school shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children has changed the dialogue, Manchin said, adding that he agrees with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has advocated banning the sale of assault weapons.

The comments by the West Virginia Democrat came on the morning of the first funerals for the Sandy Hook Elementary School students killed Friday. Investigators say Adam Lanza shot his way into the school and opened fire on a first grade class, stopping only when he heard the police. Lanza, described as troubled by family members, then shot himself. He had killed his mother before heading to the school. Investigators are still searching for the reason behind the rampage.

The massacre renewed calls from some Democrats on Sunday for a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the nation deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness.

President Barack Obama traveled to Newtown, Conn., Sunday night to console the grieving families, the fourth such trip he's had to make during his presidency. He vowed to use "whatever power this office holds" to safeguard the nation's children, raising the prospect he will pursue policy changes to stem gun violence.

Gun control was a hot topic in the early 1990s, when Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons. But since that ban expired in 2004, few Americans have wanted stricter laws and politicians say they don't want to become targets of a powerful gun-rights lobby.

"This is bigger than just about guns," Manchin said. "It's about how we treat people with mental illness, how we intervene, how we get them the care they need, how we protect our schools. It's just so sad."

Manchin, who had been hunting with his family over the weekend, said gun rights advocates have been concerned about the erosion of the Second Amendment right to bear and keep arms, "taking guns away and people not allowed to have them. That's not what this should be about. Millions and millions of people are proud gun owners and they do it responsibly and by the law."

But the self-described "proud outdoorsman and hunter" said, "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle, I don't know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting."

Manchin is the most prominent gun rights advocate to speak publicly in the wake of the shooting. He made his comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered. It's never happened in America that I can recall, seeing this carnage," Manchin said. "Anybody that's a proud gun owner, a proud member of the NRA, they're also proud parents, they're proud grandparents. They understand this has changed where we go from here."

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1 year ago

Connecticut Organizations Offering Help to Those Affected by Shooting

As the details of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut continue to unfold, local mental health professionals and aid organizations are stepping forward to help those affected by the tragedy.

Find out how the area's nonprofits are getting involved in the relief effort and how you can help:

Newtown Youth and Family Services
Newtown Youth & Family Services, Inc., a nonprofit mental health clinic, will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for emergency counseling for families, community members or staff involved in the Sandy Hook
Elementary school tragedy. All donations made to the organization will benefit those affected. Find out how you can help here.

Newtown Parent Connection
The Newtown Parent Connection, a nonprofit that addresses issues of substance abuse, also offers bereavement group counseling on the first Wednesday of every month. The organization says it's going to try to bring in additional counselors to accommodate the needs of those affected by the Sandy Hook shooting.

The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross of Connecticut immediately responded to the shooting scene and provided more than 50 units of blood platelets and plasma to the Danbury Hospital, where some of the victims were transported, spokesperson Melanie Pipkin told the Huffington Post. The aid organization has also distributed food and water to first responders and is setting up a family reception center that will provide initial grief counseling. The aid organization is not seeking blood donations at this time and doesn't anticipate any additional need.

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1 year ago

Lafayette Parish Schools Stay Prepared for Worst Case Scenario

Today's events shocked those who work within the education community, but it also made them question if what they are doing to protect campuses is enough.

"My thoughts went to our own school system. What are doing? Are we doing enough? Have we dotted our I's and crossed our T's," Lafayette Parish Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper said.

Even with the small chance a shooting could happen anywhere, Cooper says they are prepared.

"One of the things we're going to have to understand is there are just a lot of angry folks out there and we have to be ever vigilant," Dr. Cooper said.

At the Wednesday night board meeting, plans to add security measures were discussed. A presentation was made to hire more resource officers and add additional security cameras at all 42 schools. Right now, all campuses are gated and visitors must check in at the front office.

"If you have a meeting, a consultation or anything set up with any faculty member; those are pre-scheduled. So, no one has the ability to free roam on a campus," Sergeant Mark Francis of the Lafayette Police Department said.

Francis also is the supervisor for all the Resource Officers in the Lafayette schools. Along with the current security measures, both staff and faculty and staff are trained yearly on school lock down routines.

"There are codes that we have for our bell system where teachers would know this is a lockdown situation. So, everybody kind of understands what to do, but every situation is different. We just hope it's enough," Dr. Cooper said.

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1 year ago

Gunman kills 26 at Conn. school, commits suicide

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A man killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday inside an elementary school, massacring 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in fear to the sound of gunshots reverberating through the building and screams echoing over the intercom.

The 20-year-old killer, carrying at least two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28, authorities said.

The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.

"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain his composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings, saying, "As a country, we have been through this too many times."

Police shed no light on the motive for the attack. The gunman, Adam Lanza, was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.

Panicked parents looking for their children raced to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a prosperous New England community of about 27,000 people 60 miles northeast of New York City. Police told youngsters at the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school to close their eyes as they were led from the building so that they wouldn't see the blood and broken glass.

Schoolchildren - some crying, others looking frightened - were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, then drove to the school in her car with at least three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms around 9:30 a.m.

Authorities gave no details on exactly how the attack unfolded, but police radio traffic indicated the shooting lasted only a few minutes.

A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack - and perhaps saving many lives - by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.

State police Lt. Paul Vance said 28 people in all were killed, including the gunman, and a woman who worked at the school was wounded. The school's principal was believed to be among the dead.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to the place.

At least one parent said Lanza's mother was a substitute teacher there. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the law enforcement official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, but a law enforcement official said he was not believed to have had a role in the rampage. Investigators were searching his computers and phone records, but he told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

At one point, a law enforcement official mistakenly identified the gunman as Ryan Lanza. Brett Wilshe, a friend of Ryan Lanza's, said Lanza told him the gunman may have had his identification. Ryan Lanza apparently posted Facebook page updates Friday afternoon that read, "It wasn't me" and "I was at work."

Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher. "That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said. "It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was uninjured.

Theodore Varga was in a meeting with other fourth-grade teachers when he heard the gunfire. He said someone had turned on the intercom so that "you could hear people in the office. You could hear the hysteria that was going on. I think whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."

Also, a custodian ran around, warning people there was someone with a gun, Varga said.

"He said, 'Guys! Get down! Hide!'" Varga said. "So he was actually a hero." The teacher said he did not know if the custodian survived.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, said he heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was uninjured, heard a scream come over the intercom. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

On Friday night, hundreds of people packed a Newtown church and stood outside in a vigil for the victims. People held hands, lit candles and sang "Silent Night" at St. Rose of Lima church. Anthony Bloss, whose three daughters survived the shootings, said they are doing better than he is. "I'm numb. I'm completely numb," he said at the vigil.

Mary Pendergast said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting but wasn't hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, told him that he heard a noise that sounded like "cans falling." The boy said a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the children huddle in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

On Friday afternoon, family members were led away from a firehouse that was being used as a staging area, some of them weeping. One man, wearing a T-shirt without a jacket, put his arms around a woman as they walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to everything around them. Another woman with tears rolling down her face walked by, carrying a car seat with a baby inside.

"Evil visited this community today and it's too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut - we're all in this together. We'll do whatever we can to overcome this event," Gov. Dannel Malloy said.

Adam Lanza and his mother lived in a well-to-do part of Newtown where neighbors are doctors or hold white-collar positions at companies such as General Electric, Pepsi and IBM.

At least three guns were found - a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car, authorities said. A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of the guns used in the attack may have belonged to Lanza's mother, who had legally bought five weapons.

The shootings instantly brought to mind such tragedies as the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999 and the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead.

"You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken," Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis said. "You're at a shopping mall in Portland, Ore., and your life is taken. This morning, when parents kissed their kids goodbye knowing that they are going to be home to celebrate the holiday season coming up, you don't expect this to happen."

He added: "It has to stop, these senseless deaths."

Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.

"The majority of those who died were children - beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said.

He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.

"They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own," Obama continued about the victims. "Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children."

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1 year ago

Turing to Faith for Answers

During times of tragedy many people turn to their faith for answers or question everything they thought they knew.

You can never be prepared for events like we saw today. Father Chester Arceneaux, Pastor at Saint John's Cathedral says you should turn to faith to deal with evil in the world.

"God gave us free will and free choice and on days like this we rely on his great love and the love of his son."

In these tragic situations, Father Arceneaux sees an increase in those questioning their faith. Asking how God could let those children be killed. Arceneaux says just stay strong in what you believe.

"Salvation has come through the gift of the christ child. Salvation came for moments like this when evil would rob us of joy in this peaceful season of hope that we can receive comfort from our savior and hope from his promise to us in such tragedy."

In Sunday's service, priests will be addressing the tragedy hoping to provide some sort of comfort to parents and children in attendance.

"We identify with those suffering from our own sufferings. Together as a family, community, we can come and find strength in the promise of eternal life."

Father Arceneaux says now is also the time to be especially grateful for the gifts in your life. No doubt, many parents leaving work early today to hold their children a little tighter in light of today's events.

Chris Welty
cwelty@katctv.com

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1 year ago

Connecticut school shooting revives gun debate

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) - A lone police cruiser outside Columbine High School was the only outward reaction Friday to an even deadlier attack at a Connecticut elementary school. But in a state that was rocked by the 1999 Columbine school massacre and the Aurora movie theater shooting less than six months ago, Friday's shootings renewed debate over why mass shootings keep occurring and whether gun control can stop them. "Until we get our acts together and stop making these ... weapons available, this is going to keep happening," said an angry Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater shooting last July in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Teves was choked up as he answered a reporter's call Friday. A work associate of his lives in Newtown, Conn., where 27 people were killed, including 18 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary. The connection chilled and angered him. The Connecticut gunman was reported to have used a .223-caliber rifle, although it wasn't immediately clear what type. Weapons that use the .223 caliber ammunition can range from assault-style rifles similar to the AR-15 semi-automatic used by James Holmes in Aurora in the July 20 shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 70 to hunting rifles. The gunman in the recent Oregon shopping mall shooting also used an AR-15, and the Washington, D.C.-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo used a .223-caliber Bushmaster, both largely civilian versions of the military's M-16. Versions of the AR-15 once were outlawed under a U.S. assault weapon ban in 1994. That prohibition expired in 2004 and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of gun enthusiasts, did not renew it. This week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper generated a storm of debate after declaring that it was time to start debating gun control measures. Hickenlooper specifically mentioned the AR-15. "When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15. I think we need to have that discussion and say, 'Where is this appropriate?'" Hickenlooper said Wednesday. After Friday's school shootings, Hickenlooper told reporters there's no use waiting until news coverage fades. "We can't postpone the discussion on a national level every time there's a shooting. They're too often," he said. A visibly emotional President Obama seemed willing to renew debate, calling for "meaningful action" to prevent similar shootings. Also Friday, Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during an attack that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz., last year, said the Connecticut shooting should "sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right." "This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence," Kelly said on his Facebook page, calling for "a meaningful discussion about our gun laws and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America." Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex also died in the Aurora theater shooting, welcomed the discussion. "Clips that hold 50 bullets? The only animal you're after with that is man. There is no other reason. That's what that is used for. My question to those people is, 'Why do you need a clip that holds 50 bullets?'" Sullivan said in a phone interview. But Sullivan said mental health, not gun control, is a more pressing concern. "We all need someone in our lives to care," Sullivan said. "If we see a friend, a colleague, a co-worker and they're having a hard time, we need to reach out." Some shoppers interviewed at Oregon's Clackamas Town Center, scene of the Tuesday mall killings, had similar reactions. "We need to pay more attention to the people close to us, because I think there's a lot of signs prior to things," said shopper Sierra Delgado of Happy Valley, Ore. Mental health screenings alone aren't enough, other Colorado shooting survivors said. Tom Mauser, who became a gun-control advocate after his son Daniel was killed at Columbine, urged officials to stop "playing defense" on gun control. "Let's not say once again, 'Oh, this is not the right time to talk about it.' It is the right time to talk about it. "We are better than a nation that has people killing children and has people cowardly shooting people in shopping malls and schools and nursing homes. We're better than this." Such emotional appeals didn't come only from gun control supporters. Friday's responses from both sides foretold a heart-wrenching debate. "They're going to use the bodies of dead children to push their agenda," predicted Dudley Brown of the Denver group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

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1 year ago

Conn. school shooting suspect was son of teacher

The man suspected of gunning down more than two dozen people Friday in a small town in Connecticut is the son of a teacher at the elementary school where the killings occurred, and his mother is presumed to be among the dead, police said. Adam Lanza apparently drove to his mother's school carrying three weapons - two handguns and a .223-caliber rifle - and carried out the massacre. Law enforcement officials were trying to learn as much as possible about the 20-year-old and questioning his older brother, who is not believed to have any involvement in the rampage. So far, authorities have not spoken publicly of any possible motive. Several neighbors of the Lanza family in Sandy Hook, a community about 60 miles northeast of New York City, said they knew little about them. A grandmother of the suspect - who is also the mother of teacher believed killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School - was too distraught to speak when reached by phone at her home in Brooksville, Fla. "I just don't know, and I can't make a comment right now," Dorothy Champion, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She said she hadn't heard anything official about her daughter and grandsons. She declined to comment further and hung up. Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, a law enforcement official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record about the unfolding investigation. Sandeep Kapur, who lives two doors down from the Lanza family in Newtown, said he did not know them and was unaware of any disturbances at the Lanza house in the three years that he and his family have been in the neighborhood. He described the area as a subdivision of well-tended, 15-year-old homes on lots of an acre or more, where many people work at companies like General Electric, Pepsi and IBM. Some are doctors, and his next-door neighbor is a bank CEO, said Kapur, a project manager at an information technology firm. "The neighborhood's great. We have young kids, and they have lots of friends," he said. "If you drive past this neighborhood, it gives you a really warm feeling." Several local news clippings from recent years mention Adam Lanza's name among high school honor roll students.

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1 year ago

Louisiana Education Community Extends Deepest Sympathies to Newtown Community

Members of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) express their deepest condolences for the Newtown, Connecticut community after Friday's school shooting tragedy.

The following is a statement issued by LAE President Joyce Haynes:

"As members of the education community, we are deeply concerned for everyone in the Newtown, Connecticut community. We join our entire nation in mourning the deaths of innocent children and educators due to violence."

In response to these events, the LAE offers the following link to a useful guide on how to respond before, during, and after a crisis -

http://www.neahin.org/blog/school-crisis-resources.html.

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1 year ago

Update: Man kills 26 at conn. school, including 20 kids

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A man opened fire Friday inside the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in their classrooms and trembled helplessly to the sound of gunfire reverberating through the building.

The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said.

The attack, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.

Panicked parents raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children. Students were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.

Schoolchildren - some crying, others looking frightened - were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings.

Youngsters and their parents described teachers locking doors and ordering the children to huddle in the corner or hide in closets when shots echoed through the building.

A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher. A second law enforcement official said his mother, Nancy Lanza, was presumed dead.

Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, the first official said. Earlier, a law enforcement official mistakenly identified Ryan as the shooter.

Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the unfolding investigation.

The gunman drove to the school in his mother's car, the second official said. Three guns were found - a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car.

Lanza's girlfriend and another friend were missing in New Jersey, the official also said.

Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.

"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter was in the school and heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said.

"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was fine.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

Mary Pendergast, who lives close to the school, said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting, but wasn't hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."

The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.

"The majority of those who died were children - beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said.

He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.

"They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own," Obama continued about the victims. "Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children."

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1 year ago

Suspect drove to mother's school

WASHINGTON (AP) - The suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is Adam Lanza, 20, the son of a teacher at the school where the shootings occurred, a law enforcement official said Friday. A second law enforcement official says the boy's mother, Nancy Lanza, is presumed dead. Adam Lanza's older brother, Ryan, 24, of Hoboken, N.J., is being questioned by police, said the first official. Earlier, a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers' first names. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation. The first official said Adam Lanza is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to the second official, the suspect drove to the scene of the shootings in his mother's car. Three guns were found at the scene - a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols - and a .223-caliber rifle. The rifle was recovered from the back of a car at the school. The two pistols were recovered from inside the school. The official also said Lanza's girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey. Meanwhile, former Jersey Journal staff writer Brett Wilshe said he has spoken with Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, who told Wilshe the shooter may have had Ryan Lanza's identification. Ryan Lanza has a Facebook page that posted updates Friday afternoon that read that "it wasn't me" and "I was at work."

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1 year ago

Police: 27 killed at Conn. School; 1 other dead

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Police say 27 people were killed in the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, including the gunman, and one person died at another scene.

The dead at the school include 18 children.

The gunman opened fire Friday morning inside a school where his mother worked. He blasted his way through the building as young students cowered helplessly in classrooms while their teachers and classmates were shot.

The gunman killed himself. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says someone who lived with him also died.

Young students crying and looking frightened were escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line after the shots rang out in Newtown, 60 miles northeast of New York City.

The attack comes less than two weeks before Christmas and appears to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

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1 year ago

Suspect is 24; younger brother held

WASHINGTON (AP) - A law enforcement official says the suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is 24-year-old Ryan Lanza and that his younger brother is being held for questioning as a possible second shooter. The law enforcement official says the boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, works at the school as a teacher.

The official also said Ryan Lanza's girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the suspect is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.

1 year ago

Official: 27 dead in Conn. school shooting

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school Friday in a shooting that left 27 people dead, including 18 children, an official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

The shooting appeared to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

Parents flooded to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children in the wake of the shooting. Students were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.

A photo taken by The Newtown Bee newspaper showed a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

Students and staff were among the victims, state police Lt. Paul Vance said a brief news conference. He also said the gunman was dead inside the school, but he refused to say how people were killed.

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way, said the gunman apparently had two guns.

A law enforcement official in Washington said the attacker was a 20-year-old man with ties to the school and that one of the guns was a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that police were searching a location in New Jersey in connection with the shootings. That official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.

"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said.

A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps said a teacher had been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital. Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman at the hospital, said it had three patients from the school but she did not have information on the extent or nature of their injuries.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."

The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

The White House said Barack Obama was notified of the shooting and his spokesman Jay Carney said the president had "enormous sympathy for families that are affected."

1 year ago

Obama speaks to Connecticut governor

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama spoke to Connecticut's governor Friday and expressed condolences to those who lost loved ones in the elementary school shooting, the White House said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney would not confirm details of the shooting. Officials with knowledge of the incident said 27 people, including 18 children, were killed.

"As a father, incidents like these weigh heavily on him," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama was briefed on the shooting Friday morning by his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and will continue to receive regular updates throughout the day. Carney said the president was likely to address the shooting later Friday.

In addition to his phone call with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, Obama also spoke Friday with FBI director Robert Mueller. The FBI is supporting state and local law enforcement officials in Connecticut as they respond to and investigate the incident.

Carney said the administration would "do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement."

Asked whether the shooting would make gun control a higher priority on the president's agenda, Carney would say only that there would be a day for discussion on that policy issue.

"But I don't think today is that day," he said.

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1 year ago

20-year-old suspect had ties to school

WASHINGTON (AP) - A law enforcement official says the attacker in the Connecticut school shootings is a 20-year-old man with ties to the school.

The official said that a gun used in the attacks is a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that New Jersey state police are searching a location in that state in connection with the shootings, said by an official in Connecticut to have left 27 dead, including 18 children.

The official in Washington spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.

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1 year ago

27 dead in Conn. school shooting, including 18 children

Conn. (AP) - A shooting at a Connecticut elementary school Friday left 27 people dead, including 18 children, an official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way. Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown was killed and apparently had two guns. Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner.

His daughter was fine. "It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. The superintendent's office said the district had locked down schools in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Schools in neighboring towns also were locked down as a precaution.

A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps said a teacher had been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital. Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman at the hospital, said it had three patients from the school but she did not have information on the extent or nature of their injuries.

State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond.

A photo posted by The Newtown Bee newspaper showed a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building. "Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

The White House said President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting. Associated Press writer Michael Melia contributed to this report from Hartford.

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1 year ago

Official: Gunman killed in Conn. school shooting

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A shooting at a Connecticut elementary school Friday left the gunman dead and at least one teacher wounded and sent frightened pupils into the parking lot.

The shooter was killed and apparently had two guns, a person with knowledge of the shooting said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

It wasn't clear how many people were injured at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps said a teacher had been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.

"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said.

The superintendent's office said the district had locked down schools in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Schools in neighboring towns also were locked down as a precaution.

State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m.

A photo posted by The Newtown Bee newspaper showed a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

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1 year ago

School shooting reported in Newtown, Conn.

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut State Police say they are assisting local police in Newtown amid reports of a shooting at an elementary school.

The school superintendent's office says the district has locked down schools to ensure the safety of students and staff.

The shooting was reported at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, in western Connecticut.

State police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance says they have a number of personnel on the scene to assist.

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