NEWTOWN - Most children in Newtown returned to classes Tuesday for the first time since last week’s massacre, but survivors of the shooting stayed at home and their school remained a crime scene.
In a thin drizzle, yellow school buses once again rolled through the Connecticut town, where some 5,400 children are enrolled.
But it was only a baby step back toward normality in a town that had been known for low crime and a tight sense of community until Friday, when a disturbed 20-year-old local man mowed down his mother, then 20 first-graders and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Classes began with up to two hours delay and extra security was posted outside buildings, with a squad car at Newtown Middle School and lines of yellow police tape keeping away journalists at Saint Rose Elementary. At Hawley Elementary School, a couple accompanying their young son held hands and hugged the policeman at the entrance. “He was very happy to get back with his friends,” one mother said, declining to give her name. But the father said he could not describe his emotions on what should have been an ordinary school run. “There are no words. Just tears,” he said. The survivors of the Sandy Hook massacre stayed at home, and were expected to return to classes later this week in a spare school near Newtown. Detectives and forensic scientists continued to pore over their school building in a painstaking attempt to piece together what happened when Adam Lanza opened fire with a military grade rifle.
President Brack Obama on Tuesday threw his weight behind a bill to reintroduce a ban on civilians owning assault weapons. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president would support a law proposed by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein to prohibit the arms, defined as certain types of semi-automatic firearm with removable magazines. In just three days since the Newtown school shooting, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on Obama to produce legislation that limits access to guns.
Support for the gun control drive, posted on the White House “We the People” website on Friday, neared 158,000 signatures at around 2200 GMT on Monday, already a new record for such a petition.
“Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose of the right to bear arms,” it says, referring to groups like the country’s powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).
“Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve,” says the petition, available at www.whitehouse.gov.
“The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun,” it says.
The United States is reeling from a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday that left 20 young children and six adults dead.