Obama says ‘hearts broken’, calls for ‘meaningful action’

Addressing a stunned nation, President Barack Obama on Saturday grieved for the children and teachers, declaring that "every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt".

Obama, addressing the tragedy for the second time since the violence erupted Friday, sympathised with the families of the dead and said he and his wife, Michelle, "are doing what I know every parent is doing — holding our children as close as we can and reminding them how much we love them.''

Obama spoke Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. Republicans, who typically also give an address, ceded their time so that Obama could speak to the nation.

"Our hearts are broken today,'' Obama said. "We grieve for the families of those we lost. And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived. Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child's innocence has been torn away far too early."

Obama's remarks were similar to ones he delivered emotionally from the White House briefing room Friday afternoon. Obama paused and wiped his eyes as he spoke Friday, just hours after the shootings.

He reiterated his appeal that, "regardless of the politics", it was time for the country to join together and "take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.'' But neither he nor his aides have specified what action that might entail.

Obama has supported reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons but has not pushed Congress for such legislation.

Gun-control activists, however, promptly renewed their demand for new gun laws. The most prominent was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who declared pointedly in a statement: ``Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before.''

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