WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama became emotional on Friday addressing the shooting of students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., earlier in the day and made a call for action to prevent such violence in the future.
"As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children," he said in a press briefing at the White House. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
The suspected shooter in Newtown was originally identified by media outlets as Ryan Lanza, but an official later identified the suspected gunman as Adam Lanza, Ryan's 20-year-old brother, according to the Associated Press.
Obama shed tears while discussing those children, saying they "had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own." He said he was also heartbroken for the parents of surviving children who were forced to live through the incident.
He said he and his wife, Michelle, would hug their two daughters even closer Friday evening and encouraged Americans to do what they could to help. "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president but as anyone else would -- as a parent," he said.
"In the hard days to come, the community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help," he said. "Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend the hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours."
Obama ended his remarks with a quote from the Bible, as he often has in similar situations: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds," a line from the Book of Psalms.
He delivered his remarks in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, which was named for former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was shot in an attempt on the then-president's life in 1981. He and his wife, Sarah, founded the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and advocate for stricter gun control.
The White House announced shortly before Obama's remarks that flags will be flown at half-staff until Dec. 18.
He did not take questions after his briefing, and gave no details on the "action" he would pursue to prevent gun violence in the future.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters it was not the day for a debate on gun control in an immediate reaction to the shooting.
"I think it's important, on a day like today, to view this -- as I know the president, as a father, does, and I, as a father, and others who are parents certainly do, which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event," Carney said during the daily White House press briefing.
"There is, I am sure -- will be, rather -- a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day." Carney did say that Obama remains committed to renewing a ban on assault weapons.
The secretary noted that the president was first informed of the shooting by his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and will continue to be briefed throughout the day. The White House also confirmed that the president spoke with FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to extend his concern and condolences.
"I would rather not relay reactions at this point, because I don't have any confirmation to give to you about what exactly has happened there, or potential victims," Carney said, adding that the FBI is assisting both state and local law enforcement officials in Connecticut with response and investigation efforts. In light of the shooting, Carney also said he would keep the briefing free of the usual political debate in Washington.
It marks the third mass shooting in the United States in recent months, following the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre in July and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in August. When asked by a reporter whether sufficient reflection had occurred since the shooting in Aurora, when Obama promised more action to combat gun violence, Carney reiterated that he did not think now was the time to discuss policy.
"I really encourage all of us to give a moment here to focus on what is an unfolding tragedy in Connecticut and not to engage in Washington policy battles of long running," Carney said. "We do that often and it's appropriate, and I'm sure the day for this will come, but today is not that day, in our mind. We're focused on what's happening in Connecticut."
At least five mass shootings have occurred since Obama took office in 2009. The president has been criticized for having made little progress on repeated pledges to make substantive reforms in gun control laws.
For more updates, follow The Huffington Post's live blog.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted a portion of Obama's statement. It has been updated to reflect the full segment.
Also on HuffPost:
December 14, 2012 -- Newtown, Conn. -- 27 dead (including gunman)
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 27 dead -- including 20 young children. President Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/obama-newtown-school-shooting_n_2301823.html">gave an emotional address</a>, calling for "meaningful action": <blockquote>As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We're going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics.</blockquote>
September 27, 2012 -- Minneapolis, Minn. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 2 injured
Andrew John Engeldinger, a recently laid off employee of Accent Signage Systems, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/eric-rivers-dies-accent-signage-systems-shooting_n_1960914.html">entered the office building and opened fire</a>. (No public comments from the president.)
August 5, 2012 -- Oak Creek, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 4 injured
White supremacist Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh Temple, opening fire on congregants. He later shot and injured a police officer responding to the scene. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/05/obama-wisconsin-shooting-_n_1744692.html">Presidential reaction</a>: <blockquote>Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. <br>My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.</blockquote>
July 20, 2012 -- Aurora, Colo. -- 12 dead, 59 injured
During a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html">opened fire on the suburban Denver movie theater</a>, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Two days later, Obama <a href="http://www.kunc.org/post/transcript-video-president-obamas-speech-after-aurora-hospital-visit">delivered a ten-minute speech</a> from the University of Colorado that made no mention of gun control: <blockquote>God bless all who helped to respond to this tragedy. And I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.</blockquote>
May 31, 2012 -- Seattle, Wash. -- 6 dead (including gunman)
A man opened fire in a cafe, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/seattle-shootings-2012_n_1561944.html">fatally wounding four people</a>, then killed another in a carjacking before killing himself. (No public comments from the president.)
April 2, 2012 -- Oakland, Calif. -- 7 dead
A former student of Oikos University, a Korean college, entered a building on the campus and shot repeatedly at random targets. (No public comments from the president)
February 22, 2012 -- Norcross, Ga. -- 5 dead (including gunman)
A man <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203960804577238850391163984.html">shot and killed two of his sisters and their husbands and then himself</a> in a Korean health spa. (No public comments from the president.)
October 12, 2011 -- Seal Beach, Calif. -- 8 dead, 1 injured
Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, stormed a hair salon where his ex-wife worked and <a href="http://www.ocregister.com/articles/business-321651-medical-beach.html?videos">killed eight people</a>. (No public comments from the president.)
January 8, 2011 -- Tucson, Ariz. -- 6 dead, 14 injured
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing six people and injuring others including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/08/gabrielle-giffords-shot-c_n_806211.html">shot in the head at point-blank range</a>. Two months later, Obama addressed gun control issues <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/13/obama-gun-control-arizona-shooting_n_835103.html">in an op-ed for the <em>Arizona Daily Star</em></a>: <blockquote>I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country. However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.</blockquote>
August 3, 2010 -- Manchester, Conn. -- 9 dead (including gunman), 2 injured
A driver for Hartford Distributors <a href="http://articles.courant.com/2010-08-03/news/hc-omar-thornton-workplace-shooting-020100803_1_workplace-shooting-east-hartford-shooting-victims">killed eight people and then himself </a>in this workplace shooting. (No public comments from the president.)
November 29, 2009 -- Parkland, Wash. -- 5 dead (including gunman)
A Washington man walked into a coffee shop and <a href="http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2010382767_webfourdead29m.html">shot four police officers execution-style</a>. (No public comments from the president.)
November 5, 2009 -- Fort Hood, Texas -- 13 dead, 30 injured (including gunman)
In the deadliest shooting to ever happen on an American military base, an Army Major <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/fort-hood-shooting-fbi-nidal-hasan-political-correctness_n_1685653.html">serving as a psychiatrist went on a shooting spree</a> that killed 13. Obama <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/11/06/obamas-response-fort-hood-shooting-scrutiny/#ixzz2F3yWYFVg">said at a press conference</a>: <blockquote>This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow servicemen and women. We don't know all of the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all of the facts.</blockquote>
April 3, 2009 -- Binghamton, N.Y. -- 14 dead (including gunman), 4 injured
Jiverly Wong, a naturalized immigrant from Vietnam,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/nyregion/05suspect.html"> gunned down students and employees at the American Civic Association</a>, where he had been taking English lessons. President Obama said in a statement: <blockquote>Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, N.Y. today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton. We don't yet know all the facts, but my administration is actively monitoring the situation, and the vice president is in touch with Governor Paterson and local officials to track developments.</blockquote>
March 10, 2009 -- Geneva County, Ala. -- 11 dead (including gunman), 6 injured
A 28-year-old man <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/us/12alabama.html?hp&_r=0">killed his mother then drove ten miles to kill several members of his extended family, neighbors and a bystander</a>. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 74 years old. (No public comments from the president.)
March 29, 2009 -- Carthage, N.C. -- 8 dead, 3 injured (including gunman)
A gunman <a href="http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/4837676/">opened fire on a nursing home</a>, killing seven residents and a nurse. (No public comments from the president.)
June 25, 2008 -- Henderson, Ky. -- 6 dead (including gunman), 1 injured
After an argument with his boss at the Atlantis plastics plant, Wesley N. Higdon, 25, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25361852/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/dead-argument-boss-ends-rampage/#.UMuJ53Pjlps">killed five colleagues</a> and then himself. (No public comments from the president.)
February 14, 2008 -- DeKalb, Ill. -- 6 dead (including gunman, 21 injured)
A former Northern Illinois University student, 27-year-old Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, opened fire on the campus, killing five people then himself. George W. Bush <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/15/us-usa-shooting-school-idUSKRA48086720080215">spoke with school president John Peters </a>and told him "that a lot of folks today will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community. Obviously a tragic situation on that campus and I ask our citizens to offer their blessings, blessings of comfort and blessing of strength." Then an Illinois senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/02/15/us-usa-shooting-school-idUSKRA48086720080215">said in a statement </a>that "we must also offer ... our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets and our schools; from our neighborhoods and our cities."
February 7, 2008 -- Kirkwood, Mo. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured
A gunman <a href="http://www.ksdk.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=139898">opened fire on a public meeting in the city hall,</a> killing six people before he was shot and killed by police. (No public comments from the president.)
December 5, 2007 -- Omaha, Neb. -- 9 dead (including gunman)
Robert A. Hawkins, 19, went on a shooting spree at the Westroads Mall, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120501868.html">killing eight people</a> and then himself. George W. Bush had been visiting Omaha for a fundraiser but left the city just an hour before the shooting took place. "Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy," the White House <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120501868.html">said in a statement.</a>
October 7, 2007 -- Crandon, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured
Tyler Peterson, 20, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/10/09/wisconsin.shooting/index.html" target="_hplink">killed six people</a>, including his ex-girlfriend, at a post-homecoming party. (No public comments from the president.)
April 16, 2007 -- Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, Va. -- 33 dead (including gunman), 23 injured
Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the school, shot and killed 32 of his classmates before committing suicide. George W. Bush addressed the nation: <blockquote>I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.</blockquote>