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Activists, artists, elected leaders react to the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

The slaughter of more than two dozen children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut is, without question, one of the most horrific events we have gone through as a country.

No surprise, then, that it has become the chief topic of conversation all over the country…. in shops, offices, homes, and online.

At the White House, President Obama stopped by the James M. Brady Press Briefing Room (named for a survivor of gun violence) to speak to the White House press corps about the massacre. Wiping away tears, the President said, “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 anybody else would — as a parent.

“And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”

“Whether it’s 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,” the President added. “And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

New York Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Boston Mayor Thomas Meninio, released a statement calling on President Obama to do more than issue a call for “meaningful action”.

We’re going to run his statement in full, because it is the most appropriate response we have seen to this tragedy today. Here it is:

With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their ABCs are safe.

We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again.

For every day we wait, thirty-four more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before.

What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.

My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.

Millions of people have reacted to the attacks through social media, particularly Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, but also Identi.ca and other networks.

Many people have channeled their frustration, anger, and sadness towards the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the country’s most powerful lobbies and an uncompromising voice against sensible restrictions on firearms.

So far, the NRA has not officially commented on the massacre in Newtown, except to say, “No comment”. The NRA’s latest tweet references a holiday promotion and its website is devoid of any references to Newtown.

Last week, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre suggested to reporters that Kasandra Perkins – the slain girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher – would still be alive if she had been carrying a firearm.

“The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer,” he told USAToday.

What’s LaPierre going to say about the tragedy in Newtown? That those teachers and kindergartners could have saved their lives from “that murderer”, if only they were armed? (Unconfirmed reports, by the way, have suggested the gunman, said to be twenty-year old Adam Lanza, was wearing body armor).

In reality, guns make us less safe. A family that keeps guns at home is ironically more likely to experience a homicide or suicide. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40% to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90% to 460%.

Young people who commit suicide with a gun usually use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shelters for victims of domestic violence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.

The NRA’s answer to gun violence is to advocate for more gun ownership. It is now estimated that the ratio of guns to people in America is approaching one to one… in other words, there are around ninety or more guns for every one hundred people. But, while the number of homicides has been decreasing, far too many people are still killed with guns, and deadly massacres like today’s have become more common.

Sensible restrictions on firearms are sorely needed in this country. Requiring background checks for all gun sales (no exceptions) is not an idea that it is at odds with the Second Amendment. Even staunch defenders of the Second Amendment agree that people who are mentally ill should not possess guns.

So let’s take steps to ensure that they can’t – and don’t.

Plenty of people are offering similar thoughts on social media today. Here’s a collection of some of the most cogent tweets we’ve seen today, from fellow activists, artists, and comedians:

When Americans are outraged, the @NRA is silent. When Americans are silent, the NRA is busy pushing its agenda. Outrage must become action.

Remi Kanazi ‏

A nation that refuses to do anything to help its citizens – especially children & teachers – not get murdered is a failed state. #Newtown

Nima Shirazi

I want to live in a world where the mental health lobby is as powerful as the gun lobby.

Karen Bergreen

It’s not politicizing a tragedy to want to avoid another tragedy.

Brooke Jarvis

It’s time to direct resources & policy attention towards this massacre trend in accordance with the national security threat it’s become.

Derek Young

What if we started by requiring gun owners to pay liability insurance?

Miles Kurland

In my few years, I’ve lived through a lot of stories of shootings. But none had ever shown survivors clutching naptime blankets & pillows.

Henry Kraemer

The next time someone goes on a killing spree w/a .233 caliber soul, lemme know. [Replying to] @GlennBeck It is not the gun. It is the soul.

Robert Silverman

Guns don’t kill people. People in states without gun-purchase background checks & waiting periods kill people.

John Fugelsang

Too soon to speak out about a gun-crazy nation? No, too late. At least thirty-one school shootings since Columbine. (10:37 AM) [...] The NRA hates freedom. They don’t want you to have the freedom to send your children to school & expect them to come home alive. (12:37 PM)

Michael Moore

And from Asia, Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, writes:

I just woke up in my hotel room in Beijing, China to learn that another mass shooting has taken place – this time at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the entire community of Newtown, CT. I just spoke to Gabby, and she sends her prayers from Tucson.

As we mourn, we must 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. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait.

We’ll continue to update this post with more reaction as we get it.