WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama counted five communities he has consoled after mass shootings and called on Americans to seek changes to prevent more tragedies. He spoke Sunday at a memorial service for those who died Monday at the Navy Yard.
About 4,000 people attended the service at the Marine Barracks,which is about two blocks from the Navy Yard.
There is a “creeping resignation” to acts of violence in this country,Obama said. He added that change will not come from Washington,but from the American people.
“We can’t accept this,” he said. “As Americans bound in grief and love,we must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work. There is nothing normal about our children being gunned down in their classrooms. There is nothing normal about children dying in our streets from stray bullets.”
Officials say Aaron Alexis entered the secure compound with a shotgun and killed 12 people. Alexis died after a gun battle with police.
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray said at the service that a lesson is abundantly clear from the shooting.
“Our country is drowning in a sea of guns,” he said. “Why is it that these tragic consequences and these tragic occurrences never seem to move us any closer to ensuring that guns don’t get into the hands of criminals or mentally unstable people?”
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said those who died during the shooting were part of the best naval engineering team in the world.
“Members of the Navy family demonstrated true courage at the Navy Yard last week,” Greenert said. “We will remember the fallen in the events of last Monday and we will grow stronger as an institution.”
Obama spoke about the lives of each of the shooting victims,saying their families have “endured a shattering tragedy.”
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hugged family members of those who died before leaving the service. The president,listing other recent shootings in the U.S.,said no other advanced country has this kind of violence.
“What’s different in America is it’s easy to get your hands on a gun – and a lot of us know this,” Obama said. “But the politics are difficult,as we saw again this spring. And that’s sometimes where the resignation comes from – the sense that our politics are frozen and that nothing will change.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus attended the service.
Holland Hardgrove,27,a Navy Yard employee from D.C.,said after the service that the president’s remarks about gun control were needed. “He really seemed sick of it himself,” Hardgrove said. “I think that’s the right tone and it did strike.”
The president said that what the country truly needs is to find a common-sense way to preserve the rights of gun owners while reducing gun violence. He said this may not happen soon,but he assured listeners it will happen.
“Our tears are not enough. Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women,” he said. “We’re going to have to change.”
Reach reporter Andrés Rodríguez at [email protected] or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.