President Obama’s speech in Newtown, Conn., at a memorial for the 26 students and faculty members killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, marks his fourth speech after a mass shooting during his first presidential term.
How he has addressed the responses to such acts of violence has varied. Here are key excerpts from Sunday’s speech and his earlier appearances.
Dec. 16, 2012
“This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re altogether there — letting them know that they’re loved and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
“I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough, and we will have to change.
“Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, the fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And, in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost-daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America. Victims who, much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
“We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.
“Surely we can do better than this. If there’s even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.
“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have?
“We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
July 22, 2012
“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.”
Jan. 12, 2011
“You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless.
“Already, we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much — much of this process of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that — that heals, not in a way that wounds. . . .
“For the truth is, none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
“Yes, we had to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.
“But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.”
Fort Hood, Texas
Nov. 10, 2009
“We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.”