Sandy Hook shooting: The contrasting attitudes of Barack Obama and Donald Trump

Darren Richman
Thursday 14 December 2017 13:00
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Picture:(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On 14 December 2012, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place.

It was an incident so horrific that it felt impossible to believe there wouldn't be some kind of fundamental change in gun legislation in America and yet here we are, half a decade on, and very little has changed. But how did Donald Trump and Barack Obama react to the incident and its aftermath?

What happened?

The Sandy Hook elementary school shooting occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old and six staff members. Before murdering the children and school staffers he shot and killed his mother at their home.

Lanza committed suicide when the authorities arrived at the scene.

Initial reactions to Sandy Hook

A visibly shaken Obama gave a televised address on the day of the shootings and had to pause twice to compose himself and wipe away tears. He stated:

We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

Attitudes towards gun control

In the wake of this tragic act of violence, there were renewed calls for countrywide gun control. Barack Obama said on the lack of common sense gun law:

This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.

It is fair to say that Trump has held positions on just about every point on the political spectrum, but his views on gun control have shifted to the right as the years have passed. In his 2000 book, terrifyingly titled The America We Deserve, he wrote:

I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.

What happened next?

In the immediate aftermath of the event, President Obama met with the families and spoke at an interfaith vigil. He honoured the six slain adults posthumously with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal on February 15, 2013. He said:

They could have focused on their own safety, on their own wellbeing. But they didn't. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care.

In the same year, Obama signed 23 executive orders and proposed 12 congressional actions regarding gun control. Legislation introduced in the first session of 113th Congress included the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 and an expansion of background checks on gun purchases. Both were defeated in the Senate.

Trump started seriously considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the years that followed and his views have appeared to change. At a campaign rally in Burlington he said:

I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases.

In May 2016, Trump secured the endorsement of the National Rifle Association and since then he has tended to echo their ethos on the issue of guns.

Shockingly, radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed in February that the President calls him for advice on occasion. The InfoWars host is a man who has repeatedly claimed the tragedy at Sandy Hook was staged.

More: Man sums up America's gun problem in one tweet

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