President Obama, guns, and the Newtown distinction

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President Obama reportedly told Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy Friday—the day Sandy Hook Elementary School was attacked by a heavily armed gunman bent on killing as many innocent victims as possible—was the most difficult day of his presidency.

The president spoke emotionally Friday afternoon, wiping away tears, reciting scripture and sharing, as a parent, in the anguish of so many in that community and across the country.

On Sunday evening the President delivered a powerful set of remarks at the vigil inside a packed auditorium in Newtown, remarks written and delivered with compassion and power.

Again, he cited  passages from the Bible; again, he mourned families who now bury their children; again, he honored adults killed inside the school trying to protect the students as well as the first responders who risked their own lives to stop the rampage. He named each of the 20 first graders killed by name.

But Sunday evening the president went further, issuing a forceful call to action in the face of repeated mass shootings. “Can we say we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose,” he asked.

“No single law or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world,” he said. “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.”

It was a resolute tone at the outset of our latest national gun conversation. We do not yet know what meaningful reform, if any, will come. This is, after all, just the latest in a litany of mass shooting tragedies, each one increasingly indistinguishable from the last; each one failing to provoke reform.

But we all know the heart-wrenching detail that challenges status-quo and special interest money to drive actual change.

The president was photographed with several children during his visit to Newtown—in one photo, seen here, he smiles with the surviving family members of victim Emilie Parker, 6.

They were children who were not in the path of Adam Lanza Friday—but whose lives are forever altered, now without their sibling.

And therein is the distinction: Everyone can relate to childhood innocence lost. The president himself has two daughters, both moving through their own adolescence, both still holding onto their own innocence.

In fact, the president described parenthood like this: “Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves - our child - is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice.”

Before the president traveled to Newtown Sunday, he attended a dance rehearsal for his 11-year-old daughter, Sasha.

What a bittersweet contrast, knowing that he would later speak to a community rocked by such senseless violence directed at the youngest among us.

And what a reminder—as he would tell Newtown residents—that we are not doing enough and that the nation will have to change.

We will have much more from Newtown, including the policy fallout, at 4 pm.

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President Obama, guns, and the Newtown distinction

Updated