NEWTOWN, Connecticut (AP) — The White House said President Barack Obama supports reinstating an assault weapons ban as the United States wrestled with the treacherous issue of gun control in the aftermath of an elementary school massacre. With the debate sharpening, the country's most powerful gun rights group broke its silence over the shooting and promised "to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
In the Connecticut town where the shooting occurred, funerals were held Tuesday for two more of the tiny fallen, a 6-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, the latest in a long, almost unbearable procession of grief. A total of 26 people — 20 children and six adults — were gunned down at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history. The gunman also killed his mother in her home before committing suicide as police arrived at the school.
Classes resumed Tuesday at all Newtown's schools except for Sandy Hook. The students who survived the Sandy Hook shooting will return to class in January after the winter break in the neighboring town of Monroe at a school that was closed last year. Volunteers and town officials have been making the Chalk Hill School safe and suitable for them, the Connecticut Post reported.
Students at Newton High School said they didn't get much work done Tuesday and spent much of the day talking about the terrible events of last Friday, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza, clad all in black, broke into Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire on students and staff.
"It's definitely better than just sitting at home watching the news," said sophomore Tate Schwab. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. It feels to me like it hasn't happened."
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, back-to-back funerals were held for little James Mattioli, who especially loved math and recess, and Jessica Rekos, who loved horses and had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
The tragedy continued to reverberate around America as citizens and lawmakers debated whether Newtown might be a turning point in the often polarizing national discussion of gun-control.
The most powerful supporter of gun owners, the National Rifle Association, broke its silence Tuesday, four days after the school shooting. After a self-imposed media blackout that left many wondering how it would respond to the killings, it said in a statement that its members were "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders."
The group — typically outspoken about its positions even after shooting deaths — also said it wanted to give families time to mourn before holding a news conference Friday.
"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," the organization said.
A former co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, and 10-term House Republican Jack Kingston, a Georgia lawmaker elected with strong backing from the National Rifle Association, were the latest lawmakers to join the call to consider gun control as part of a comprehensive, anti-violence effort next year.
"Put guns on the table. Also put video games on the table. Put mental health on the table," Kingston said.
But he added that nothing should be done immediately, saying, "There is a time for mourning and a time to sort it out. I look forward to sorting it out and getting past the grief stage."
Republicans in the House of Representatives discussed the gun issue at their regular closed-door meeting Tuesday, and at least some were willing to consider gun control as part of a solution.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama is "actively supportive" of reinstating an assault weapons ban and would also support legislation to close the gun show "loophole," which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.
Obama has long supported reinstating the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, but was quiet on the issue during his first term. Obama has said he believes the Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.
The president was not expected to take any formal action on guns before the end of the year, given the all-consuming efforts to resolve tax and deficit-reduction talks and nominate new Cabinet secretaries.
As shares in publicly traded gun manufacturers were dropping for a third straight day Tuesday, the largest firearms maker in the United States said it is being put up for sale by its owner, which called last week's school shooting a "watershed event" in the American debate over gun control.
Freedom Group International makes Bushmaster rifles, the weapons thought to have been used in Friday's killings.
The New York-based private equity group Cerberus Capital Management — which invests money on behalf of public employees like teachers, among other clients — said it will sell its controlling stake in the