UPDATE 4-White House readies gun-control

December 20 [Thu], 2012, 20:41
* Biden to lead effort to reduce gun violence

* Teacher who saved half her class buried as a heroine

NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec 19 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama

assigned Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday to find ways to

curtail gun violence in America to try to avoid tragedies like

the elementary school massacre in Connecticut, where the town

buried one of its heroes on Wednesday.

With Newtown still in mourning from last Friday's shooting,

when a 20-year-old gunman shot dead 26 people at Sandy Hook

Elementary School and then himself, Biden took the assignment to

produce recommendations and to report back to Obama in time for

the president's State of the Union address in late January.

Obama's initiative addressed national outrage over the

shootings in Connecticut, which have prompted longtime

gun-rights supporters to reconsider their positions and a major

private equity firm to put its gun-making business up for sale.

Newtown buried four of its children on Wednesday plus the

principal of the school and teacher Victoria Soto, who is

credited with saving half of her class of 6- and 7-year-olds by

diverting the shooter and hiding the children in a closet.

"Vicki achieved in her 27 years what many of us will never

achieve if we live to be a hundred," the Reverend Meg Boxwell

Williams told the funeral service. "Her last act was absolutely

selfless, Christ-like, laying down her life for her children."

Four children were buried and a visitation was held for the

principal of the school who was among the 28 dead.

Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother at home and then

killed 20 children and six adults at the school before shooting

himself in the head, officials said.

Soto hid her students in a closet when she heard the

shooting start early Friday morning, and when Lanza entered

Soto's classroom she tried to throw him off by telling him the

students were at the other end of the school in an auditorium,

the Hartford Courant reported, citing unnamed law-enforcement

officials.

Lanza shot six of the children when they tried to run, and

police later found the remaining seven students still hiding in

the closet, the Courant said. Those children told law

enforcement officials what had happened, the Courant reported.

The account provided Newtown with a positive story to cling

to following the horrible events that left the nation stunned.

Soto's death "mixed with the glad knowledge that her

sacrifice saved so many children," Williams said.

MOURNERS LINE THE STREETS

Some 30 police motorcycles from surrounding towns led the

hearse carrying Soto's body to the service in Stratford,

Connecticut. About 200 mourners lined the streets outside the

church, including a mother and daughter from Maryland who never

met Soto but made the long drive because they were touched by

her bravery in trying to protect the children in her class.

The family of the school's slain principal, Dawn Hochsprung,

invited mourners to visit a local funeral home on Wednesday. Her

burial was due to be private at an undisclosed time.

After the service for Daniel Barden, 7, a bagpiper played

"America the Beautiful," as hundreds of police officers and

firefighters, some from New York City and distant towns, stood

in formation outside.

The little boy loved his family, riding waves at the beach,

playing drums, foosball, reading, and making s'mores around a

bonfire at his grandfather's house, said an obituary in the

Newtown Bee newspaper.

Funerals also were scheduled for Charlotte Bacon and

Caroline Previdi, both 6, and Chase Kowalski, 7.

The impact of the shooting was felt in the business world

when private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP said it

would sell its investment in the company that makes the

AR-15-type Bushmaster rifle that was used by Lanza.

The National Rifle Association gun lobby broke its silence

for the first time since the shootings, saying it was "prepared

to offer meaningful contributions" to prevent such massacres. A

news conference was called for Friday.

The massacre prompted some Republican lawmakers to open the

door to a national debate about gun control.

That may give an opening to Obama, who said he hoped the NRA

would reflect on the tragedy as it awaits Biden's

recommendations.

"The vast majority of responsible law-abiding gun owners

would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep

an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war,"

Obama said.



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