President Obama on Saturday marked the first anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings with calls for stricter gun control and more support for mental health, as well as by lighting candles for each of the victims.
"We haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer," Obama said in his weekly address. "We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds."
The president and first lady lit 26 candles in the White House Map Room on Saturday morning to remember each of the victims, many of them children, who died in the Newtown school shooting last year. They also observed a moment of silence.
Newtown officials have asked news outlets not to descend on their city for the anniversary, and many media organizations have agreed to respect the request. In a statement last week, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said journalists should allow residents “the time to be alone and quiet, with time for personal and communal reflection.”
The major television networks and newspapers have agreed not to send journalists to the town, although the Associated Press is expected to be there. News outlets are largely expected to rely on the wire service for coverage.
In Washington, the National Cathedral held a vigil on Thursday to remember the victims, with religious leaders from various faiths calling for greater legislative efforts to stem gun violence.
The Newtown Foundation, a gun-control advocacy group, organized the vigil along with the Episcopal Church, whose leaders this year have called for action to address gun violence and racism.
Obama has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, but Congress missed its last opportunity to do so in April, when legislation to strengthen background checks and ban military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines failed in the Senate.
The only other effort at federal gun legislation under the current Congress came in the form of a renewed ban on manufacturing plastic firearms that are not detectable by security-screening devices. The House and Senate approved that measure this month.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Obama administration would dedicate $100 million toward mental health services, with the funding evenly divided between rural mental-health centers and helping community centers hire providers and boost services.