WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama spoke Sunday at a memorial service honoring 12 victims who were gunned down last week at the Washington Navy Yard by a New York-born gunman.
“As Americans bound in grief and love, we must insist here today there’s nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work,” Obama said at the service.
Obama said it has become clear that change will not come from politicians in Washington, who have been unable or unwilling to change the nation’s gun laws even when tragedy strikes the capital city. Instead, Obama said, change will have to come the only way it ever has — from people demanding action.
PHOTOS FROM CBS DC: Thousands attend memorial service
The late-afternoon service was held at the Marine Barracks Washington in southeast Washington, not far from the Navy facility where authorities say 34-year-old Aaron Alexis fatally shot a dozen people last Monday morning. Police killed Alexis in a gun battle.
The dead range in age from 46 to 73, and include civilian employees and contractors. Eight people were also hurt, including a police officer and two others who suffered gunshot wounds.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama also visited with families of the victims.
As authorities searched Monday for the gunman, Obama lamented that “we are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today, it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital.” He said the gunfire targeted military and civilian personnel, men and women who were going to work and doing their jobs.
Addressing an awards dinner Saturday night in Washington, Obama said these families “now know the same unspeakable grief of families in Newtown, and Aurora, and Tucson, and Chicago, and New Orleans, and all across the country, people whose loved ones were torn from them without headlines sometimes, or public outcry.”
But he said that kind of violence is happening every day. He urged supporters “to get back up and go back at it” to push gun control legislation that stalled in the Senate earlier this year, part of a package of measures Obama promised to push after the December killing of 20 first-graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“As long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun, then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children,” Obama said, in a likely preview of his remarks Sunday. “We’ve got to be ones who are willing to do more work to make it harder.”
The Navy Yard itself re-opened for normal operations on Thursday, three days after the shooting. The building where the shooting took place remains closed.
his year, he led the mourning for victims of an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, and a double bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. He also consoled victims of a major tornado that flattened the town of Moore, Okla.
Obama also has mourned victims of other mass shootings, including in Newtown, Conn., and at shopping mall in Tucson, Ariz., that severely wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Alexis was a former Navy reservist who had done contract work at the Navy Yard and had a valid pass for entry. Alexis was born in Queens and had worked at the Borough of Manhattan Community College from 2001-03 as a computer network technician. His mother, sister and brother-in-law live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
On Wednesday, Cathleen Alexis, his mother mother, made her first public comments by reading a statement from her home.
“Our son, Aaron Alexis, has murdered 12 people and wounded several others,” she said. “His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims.
“I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’ll never be able to ask him why. Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad.
“To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.”
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