The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacrecontinues to bring out the very best and worst in people.
As hundreds of mourners gathered for a mass on Sunday morning at the St Rose of Lima Catholic Church, the church affiliated with Sandy Hook Primary School, a bomb threat forced armed police to charge into the church and evacuate the stunned congregation.
At the time, Carol Tomassetti, a local woman in her 40s, was braving the cold rain outside, handing out teddy bears and soft toys that had been given to a local fire department by an anonymous donor from Rhode Island, who wanted pass on some comfort to each of the children of Newtown.
“I saw this Newtown Police car charge in and I thought why is he driving like a maniac,” said Ms Tomassetti, a local designer.
She then saw State Police armed with semi-automatic rifles running towards her, shouting for the group to “get out”.
Mourners began streaming in tears from the church, as Ms Tomassetti and the other volunteers packed up their soft toys and moved to one of Newtown’s makeshift shrines, where they continued to hand out the soft toys.
As many Americans turned to their churches to find comfort and answers in the wake of the mass killing in Connecticut, gun control remains a central theme of discussion.
The Dean of the National Cathedral in Washington DC, Gary Hall, asked in his sermon this morning: “Why do we as a society tolerate these massacres in increasing numbers? …
What does it say about us as a society that we continue to tolerate so much violence against children? What does it say about us, as a community of human beings, that we are willing to put our children (not to mention their teachers) in so much jeopardy?
“If you stand back from it for a minute, you realise that our continued shared tolerance of this violence directed against our children is insane.”
Gun control was widely addressed on Sunday morning political programs that help set the nation’s weekly agenda, with many agreeing that at the very least the horror of last Friday’s shooting would prompt a more serious debate than the country has engaged in for some years.
One prominent congressman believed arming teachers would be a better solution to the violence than gun control.
“I wish to god she [Sandy Hook elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung] had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out … and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” the Texan Republican congressman Louis Gohmert said on Fox News.
(An M-4 is similar weapon to the military-style semi automatic rifle used to kill Newtown’s children.)
He said it was important that Americans remained well armed to prevent government tyranny.
Gohmert was in conversation with the prominent Fox anchor Chris Wallace, whose line of questioning suggested he was not entirely sympathetic to the Congressman.
Discussing the issue in a panel moments later the conservative commentator William Kristol, founder and editor of the Weekly Standard, a leading conservative journal, said he believed the massacre had made a serious debate over gun control – perhaps in the form of a senate commission – inevitable. Though he said he doubted policy reform could be effective in reducing gun deaths.
Other panelists said it now appeared that debate was no longer an option, and a “fed up” section of the American community would demand immediate action.
Meanwhile, a staffer from NBC’sMeet the Pressprogram revealed that producers contacted 31 pro-gun senators to invite them onto their program but none agreed.
A petition demanding legislative change on the White House’s “We the People” website, which encourages democratic participation by guaranteeing an official response to any petition that collects more than 25,000 signatures, has already been signed by 118,000 people.
In Newtown, details of exactly what happened inside the elementary school remain sketchy, with police refusing to release or even confirm most details until they have completed their investigation.
What is known with some certainty is that the killer arrived at the school at around 9.30 am on Friday morning and shot his way through the front door, circumventing a security system that requires visitors to be buzzed.
“He penetrated the building by literally shooting an entrance into the building. That’s what an assault weapon can do for you.” Said Connecticut’s governor, Dan Malloy
Once inside it is thought Sandy Hook’s principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach ran towards him and were shot dead.
During a media briefing police spokesman Lt Paul Vance would not confirm this information, which has been described by witness, but did confirm the shootings were conducted in one corridor and two classrooms.
It is believed that Lanza entered first one and then a second classroom, firing around 100 rounds during a killing spree that may have lasted just eight minutes.
“We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that decided to take his own life,” Governor Malloy told ABC’sThis Week.
On Saturday in Newtown the medical examiner reported he believed all the victims suffered more multiple gunshot wounds.
The President, Barack Obama, is due to arrive in Newtown later today to attend a service and spend time with the victims’ families.
A SWAT team leaves the Newtown church. Photo: REUTERS