Will not return to scene of massacre.
The 436 students who survived the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school will attend an unused school in a neighboring town, Newtown schools superintendent Janet Robinson said Sunday. It is still unclear when they will return to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed 20 children and six adults Friday. The school remains an active crime scene. All seven of Newtown’s public schools, which have more than 5,000 students, will be closed Monday.
Will introduce assault-weapons ban.
It’s time for Congress to enact a ban on assault weapons, Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday on Meet the Press. Feinstein has been a leading advocate for gun-control reform on Capitol Hill. “I’m going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons,” Feinstein said Sunday. The senator’s support for a revival of the ban on high-powered guns comes amid demands for stricter regulations from politicians including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
They might be famous for being diehards, but Lloyd Grove finds the NRA museum silent and somber the day after the Newtown shooting—and some who are willing to admit some more gun laws are needed.
It was eerily still Saturday afternoon at the National Rifle Association’s corporate headquarters, just beyond the Washington Beltway down Route 66 in northern Virginia. With its golden eagle digging its talons into a cross of golden rifles in a field of blue, the NRA flag flew at half-staff along with the Stars and Stripes. The parking lot was empty, except for a few visitors to the NRA’s National Firearms Museum on the ground floor. The “home of the NRA gun collection” was as quiet as a crypt.
“They should ban all automatic weapons,” said Army wife and paralegal Petra Biggans in hushed tones. She was moving through the galleries—named for Theodore Roosevelt, Charlton Heston, and other deceased gun enthusiasts—with her in-laws and her 8-year-old daughter, Zooey, a third-grader, who owns a .22-caliber hunting rifle given to her by her officer father (currently deployed in Afghanistan). Zooey is an admirer of Annie Oakley, whose rifle and pistol were on display. “A private person has no business owning an automatic weapon,” Zooey’s mom said. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not right. The NRA lobbying for AK-47s? That’s crazy!”
When even firearms fans are questioning the NRA's take-no-prisoners policy of easy access to terrible killing power (including the semiautomatic weapons reportedly used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza to wreak mayhem on a Connecticut grade school before killing himself), you know a tipping point has been reached.
The day after yet another horrific mass shooting in a recent series of massacres perpetrated by madmen—this one perhaps hardest to comprehend, because 20 of the 28 dead were young children—the nation's powerful pro-gun lobby was hunkered down for the coming storm. And keeping its powder dry: immediately after Friday’s carnage, the NRA canceled a Twitter promotion of a country-music concert featuring a golfer turned rapper named Colt Ford. The lobby declined to explain the cancellation or, for that matter, offer any comment at all on the events in Newtown, Conn.
The flag of the National Rifle Association flies in front of the organization’s headquarters in Fairfax, Va. (Karen Bleier/AFP, via Getty)
“She watched the news with us—she wants to know what happened,” said Zooey’s mom, a native of Germany who met Zooey’s father when he was stationed there with the U.S. Army. “And the two questions she asked were, who was that man, and why did he do that? It’s hard to explain.” Biggans was standing beside a glass case containing an elaborately filigreed Merkel 303 over-under shotgun once owned by Hermann Göring. “I guess I’ll have to explain that to my daughter, too,” she said with a wan smile.
Army Lt. Col. Jeff Ritsick, who spent two years in Afghanistan, was touring the museum with Phil Fourie, a relative by marriage from Cape Town, where Fourie enters target-shooting competitions.
“It’s just a shame when anything like that happens to anyone,” said Ritsick, 44. “It’s also a shame to the people who actually obey gun laws and supporters of the NRA, as though they’re the problem.” Ritsick, who grew up hunting in Pennsylvania and said he’s not an NRA member, added: “It’s a very complex issue.”
Took her son to the firing range.
Nancy Lanza liked guns. The mother of the young man who killed 26 people in Connecticut and herself was a victim of his rampage collected guns and took her son target shooting, according to her people who knew her. Lanza “prepared for the worst,” former sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I didn’t know that they [the guns] would be used on her.” Authorities have said that the guns used in Newtown were registered to Nancy Lanza, though they are not sure how many she owned in all.
In wake of Newtown shooting.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Saturday joined politicians calling for new gun-control measures in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. “There is no parent and no grandparent in America that is not a resident to Sandy Hook, Connecticut,” the former White House chief of staff said. A ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois was overturned by an appeals court just last week. “There is nobody that had their child last night, that didn’t hold them a little closer, pull them in a little tighter, didn't hug them a little more,” Emanuel said.
World “better because she has been in it.”
Robbie Parker paid tribute to his 6-year-old daughter Saturday, saying that the little girl, who died in the shooting Friday in Newtown, would have been among the first to comfort the victims. Emilie Alice Parker was “an exceptional artist,” her father said of the oldest of his three daughters, “and she always carried around her markers and pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for someone.” Police are still searching for a motive in the shooting that took Emilie and 19 other children from their parents. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you,” Parker said to the family of the gunman.
Southerners worship firearms as the ultimate anti-government symbol—which is why they will never accept gun control, no matter how many children die.
Since hideous, unspeakable gun massacres are such a regular occurrence in this country, I’ve had the several opportunities to live the cycle of horror, outrage, argument, recrimination, and inaction that engulfs the Internet each time. It usually goes something like this: I share a couple of links in the heat of the moment, and dissenters—many of them Southern friends and relatives—come out of the woodwork to debate. The responses are as predictable as my anti-gun links: “guns don’t kill, people do”; “if someone had had a gun, maybe they could have stopped this”; “more guns make people safer”; “taking guns away from law-abiding people means only criminals will have guns.”
Scott Olson / Getty Images
No matter how I attempt to rebut these empty slogans, they never lose their power. On Friday, the horror of imagining small children gunned down in their classrooms with an assault rifle, the images of their parents screaming in despair, didn’t seem to do one bit to persuade any of the usual suspects that maybe citizens having unlimited access to assault weapons isn’t the best idea. It was sobering: the desperate denial, the contorted excuses. I spent most of the day wondering, if this won’t change people’s minds, will anything?
Having grown up in rural Texas, I shouldn’t be surprised that gun violence has virtually no impact on people’s thinking about weapons there. People live side-by-side with guns every day. Handling guns, either for hunting or pleasure shooting, is a part of the excitement of growing up: you learn to shoot, you learn to always put the safety on, and always stand behind the barrel. You shoot animals and watch them die and it’s no big deal. Guns are so ubiquitous that people don’t even realize the risk they take any time they handle one, or the extreme danger to their children in an environment of such casualness about them. When tragic accidents and horrific crimes happen, people grieve, but never does anyone blame the guns. They should have been locked up better, and so-and-so’s kids should have been taught never to play with them.
I would wager most people in my hometown are unaware that the South is, many times over, more violent than any other part of America. Within a span of a few years in my childhood, a hairdresser at the salon where my parents took me to get haircuts was gunned down at her workplace on the town square, in the middle of the day. A few years later, one of my dad’s coworkers was shot to death on his own property by an assassin hired by his crazy ex-wife. Almost every time I return and pick up the local newspaper, I’m surprised by the violent gun crimes that occur in a relatively well-off town of less than 5,000 people. You would think that such an experience of gun violence would turn people against them, but no, it’s just a fact of life. Most of us from the South are only a generation or two away from people who remember the days of sheriffs and outlaws, when the ability to defend one’s family was a necessity for survival. Those days have passed, but people are still powerfully shaped by the memory of them.
Looking at the conservative response through that lens, you can see the outlines of a worldview, one where people feel that it’s the personal duty of individual citizens to deal with problems, or to save innocent victims from gun violence. It’s as if “government” and “law enforcement” are not even concepts; sure, maybe we have those institutions around for some reason, but what happens in society is fundamentally our responsibility. At its best, this spirit is what outsiders admire about America; at its worst, it can be reflexive, irrational opposition to anything that looks like collective problem-solving. In my experience, Southerners tend to fall on the latter end of the spectrum, and meet tragedies like Newtown with bizarre blanket declarations about the impossibility of doing anything to stop future massacres. People intend their staunch defense of gun rights as an expression of their belief in personal responsibility and self-reliance; in practice, it is a profoundly fatalistic surrender to violence and the imagined requirements of surviving it.
This acceptance of violence is, of course, not limited to the South. Every time a gun massacre dominates the headlines, gun sales spike, indicating a significant number of Americans believe that somehow, owning a gun will protect them. A journalist friend in East Texas told me the day after the Aurora theater shooting in July, her phone rang all day long with people asking how to get concealed-carry permits. I’ve heard it over and over, from friends and relatives, expressing what sometimes seems like the universal response of rural America: The good people need to be armed so they can protect us from the bad people.
This contrasts sharply with the facts of public policy, where the efficacy of more restrictive gun controls is not a matter of debate. The United States’ lax gun laws indisputably, beyond a shadow of a doubt, lead to more gun deaths. The statistics comparing the U.S. to other Western nations with tighter gun laws are staggering: the number of Americans who die in gun accidents in a given year is routinely many times higher than the total gun deaths in the U.K. In Britain in 2008, there were 39 gun murders; in the U.S. in 2009, there were 9,146—that’s right, even adjusted for our larger population, the American rate is 47 times higher. Japan’s recent gun bans have virtually eliminated gun murder in their country. In our country, the states with the strictest gun laws have the lowest rates of gun crime.
Inside the Newtown shooter’s home, cops found his dead mother and several weapons. They also found a video of Lanza shooting guns with pals. Christine Pelisek talks to shocked neighbors.
Soon after 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle to kill eight boys, 12 girls, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, police quickly descended on the picturesque upper middle-class neighborhood where he grew up.
Police watch over the blocked off section of Yogananda Street, near the Lanza family home in Newtown. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)
Fearing that the house Lanza shared with his 52-year-old mother Nancy might be booby-trapped, officers sent a robot in to check each room. Once the downstairs rooms were clear, the robot continued its mission on the second level—where police discovered the body of Lanza’s mother, who was reportedly shot in the face. Inside the home, said Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance, police also found “some good evidence in the house as to why [the shooting] occurred.”
At the school that day, Lanza had used tape to attach two magazines—holding the equivalent of 60 bullets—to his rifle. He also carried two handguns, a Sig Sauer and a Glock. In the home, cops found three more weapons.
The investigation also uncovered a video of Lanza shooting guns with friends, according to Dr. H. Wayne Carver, the state of Connecticut’s chief medical examiner. Carver said that Lanza, who died from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, was found alongside his tiny victims and their teachers, including 27-year-old Vicki Soto, in one of the two classrooms he fired upon.
Outside the classroom were the bodies of school principal Dawn Hochsprung and a school psychologist. They were coming out of a meeting when Lanza forced his way into the school and began firing. “He wasn’t voluntarily let in,” said Vance. “He forced himself in.”
Federal agents have begun to canvas gun ranges and gun stores in the area to see if Lanza was a regular. “He must have been a good shot,” said Carver. “These are devastating sets of injuries.”
Friends and schoolmates of Lanza, who may have had Asperger’s syndrome or another developmental disorder, remembered him as a quiet, shy kid who had a hard time connecting with others. “I knew him as the kid who walked around with a briefcase,” said Brandon Logel, who went to Newtown High School with Lanza. “He had a hard time socializing with people. He really couldn’t connect with other kids.”
‘They were wearing cute kid stuff,’ the state’s chief medical examiner tells Michael Daly of the school-shooting victims. He spoke with a disbelief shared by nearly everyone in Newtown.
The people from the medical examiner’s office worked past midnight in a prefabricated shelter outside Sandy Hook Elementary School, taking facial photos of the 20 dead children one by one.
A memorial for the victims has been created near the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty for The Daily Beast)
Charlotte Bacon. Daniel Barden. Olivia Engel. Josephine Gay. Ana M. Marquez-Greene. Dylan Hockley. Madeleine F. Hsu. Catherine V. Hubbard. Chase Kowalski. Jesse Lewis. James Mattioli. Grace McDonnell. Emilie Parker. Jack Pinto. Noah Pozner. Caroline Previdi. Jessica Rekos. Avielle Richman. Benjamin Wheeler. Allison N. Wyatt.
The kids were still dressed in the clothes they had worn when they headed off to school that morning.
“They were wearing cute kid stuff,” the state’s chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, said. “They were first graders.”
Around 1 a.m., the children were transported to Carver’s main facility in Farmingdale. There, Carver was joined by four other doctors, 10 technicians, and a college student on the first day of an internship.
Carver did seven autopsies himself. He noted that each child had been shot multiple times with a high-powered rifle, suffering between 3 and 11 devastating wounds—the kind usually seen in war, but also the kind inflicted by a similar weapon in the movie-theater shooting in Aurora in July.
Only these victims were children: 12 girls and 8 boys, aged 6 and 7. One had just celebrated her 7th birthday on Tuesday. They all now share an obscenely early death day. The cause of death for each was officially recorded as gunshot wounds.
And will speak to families of victims.
As the father of two children, President Obama has been visibly distraught over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. On Sunday, he plans to visit Newtown, Conn., to meet with victims’ families and first responders. At 7 p.m., he will speak publicly at an interfaith vigil for the school’s families. On Friday, the president held a press conference where, wiping tears from his eyes, he spoke of “the beautiful little kids” and said “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”
Vicki Soto died protecting her first-grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nina Strochlic on the sacrifices of a true hero.
When Victoria Soto heard gunfire ricocheting off the normally quiet hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School, she didn’t run and hide. Instead, the 27-year-old teacher gathered her first-grade class into the closet and bravely placed herself between the young children and Adam Lanza, the heavily-armed shooter.
Sandy Hook Elementary School is seen through the trees. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty for The Daily Beast)
While it’s not yet clear how exactly the tragedy unfolded, whether or not the young teacher is a hero is not under dispute.
On Tumblr, a friend of Soto’s shared unconfirmed details that she had gone to extraordinary lengths to protect her class from the bullets. “I talked to Vicki Tuesday and she told me that she loved her 16 angels and never wanted to let them go,” he wrote on Friday. “Today when the shooting started Vicki hid her kids in closets and when the gunman came into her room she told them the class was in gym. She was then murdered. Words can not express how heartbreaking and tragic this is. I will miss you dearly.”
Soto’s cousin echoed the sentiment. “The family received information she was found shielding her students in a closet,” her cousin, Jim Wiltsie told the New York Daily News. “I’m very proud to report she was a hero. I would expect nothing less from Vicki … she did what she was trained to do, but also what her heart told her to do.”
The U.K.’s Independent picked up the story, splashing Soto on the cover with the line “The Heroine of Sandy Hook.”
Pictures show a dark-haired young woman with a bright, constant smile. Her cousin said it had been “her life’s dream” to be a teacher.
Childrens’ bodies were allegedly ‘riddled with bullets.’
The gunman who opened fire on the children of Sandy Hook Elementary reportedly “riddled them with bullets,” shooting some of them as many as 11 times, according to the medical examiner. A team of 14 medical technicians worked through the night to perform the horrific job of identifying the 26 people—including 20 children—allegedly killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II said the gunshot wounds were “all over” the children’s bodies. According to the Sandy Hook school directory, all of the children killed were first-graders. The names of all 26 victims were released Saturday.
Among the names of the Newtown victims is Dawn Hochsprung, an energetic educator who died trying to subdue the crazed shooter. Nina Strochlic on what we know about her brave actions.
When the first sounds of gunshots echoed through the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, Dawn Hochsprung left the safety of her office and took off running toward the shooter, who had forcibly entered through the front doors. School therapist Diane Day, who was with her when they heard a “pop, pop, pop” in the hallway, said the principal, along with psychologist Mary Sherlach and the school’s vice principal, didn’t spare a moment before running out to investigate the noise.
"They didn't think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on," Day told The Wall Street Journal.
Only the vice principal returned, with a gunshot to the leg. She would be the only surviving victim of the attack.
Dawn Hochsprung in July 2012 (Eliza Hallabeck / Newtown Bee via AP)
On Saturday, officials in Newtown, Conn., lauded the heroism of Hochsprung, a relatively new principal, noting she had lunged toward the shooter in an attempt to overtake him before being fatally shot. A fourth-grade teacher at the school credits Hochsprung with flipping on the intercom switch, which broadcast “screaming and crying,” through the school, in order to warn teachers.
As principal of 700 students, Hochsprung had recently instituted new security measures for the school, including visual recognition for entering. Tragically, her best attempts to make the building safe weren’t enough to keep out Adam Lanza, the disturbed 20-year-old who forcibly entered the school around 9:30 that morning.
Hochsprung’s close friends aren’t surprised by the heroic actions of a woman they remember as putting her students first. In fact, long before Friday’s senseless shooting, the dedicated educator had mulled over the “what if” of a school shooting.
“We rehearsed this and we talked about this after the Columbine incident, and ironically enough, one of the things we talked about is the reasons why people do that,’’ her friend Gerald Stomski told the Today Show. “If she was here to speak, she would say that we as individuals need to reach out as our responsibility and try to reach out to these troubled people ahead of time.’’
By state medical examiner.
All 26 victims of the horrific Newtown, Conn., shooting spree have been positively identified by the state medical examiner, according to authorities. The victims’ bodies have been transported to the state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where they will be examined to determine cause of death. Only one person survived the shooting, a woman shot in the foot. A State Police spokesman, Paul Vance, said detectives had uncovered “some very good evidence” at the crime scene that may shed additional light on what may have led 20-year-old Adam Lanza to open fire at Sandy Hook Elementary Friday morning.
Recovering at home.
Hillary Clinton is really having a rough week. The secretary of state fainted on Saturday and suffered a concussion. She is currently recovering at home. Her fall comes after she had to cancel a trip to the Middle East after coming down with a stomach virus on Monday. It's unclear at the moment whether the two events are related. Clinton will work from home for the next week, aides said—and she probably will not testify as scheduled in the congressional hearings on the Benghazi attack.
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke down while talking to CBS News on Friday. 'I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,' she said, while tearfully acknowledging that 'there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.'
Friday’s horrific Colorado shooting has reignited the debate on gun control. Just how bad is the problem?
We as a society are held hostage by the NRA’s thugs. This must be the time for change. By Robert Shrum.
Gov. Dan Malloy mourned the loss of 'beautiful beautiful children' in a poignant speech on Friday evening. To those who want to help, Malloy said the best way is to “say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut. Read his words.
Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the Connecticut shooter.