NEWTOWN, Conn. — He spoke for a nation in sorrow, but the slaughter of all those little boys and girls turned the commander in chief into another parent in grief, searching for answers.
Alone on a spare stage after the worst day of his tenure, President Barack Obama declared Sunday he will use "whatever power" he has to prevent shootings like the Connecticut school massacre.
He noted that as president this was the fourth mass shooting he and the nation have mourned.
"We can't tolerate this anymore," he told an evening vigil in the shattered community of Newtown, Conn. "These tragedies must end."
"What choice do we have?" Obama said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
For Obama, that was an unmistakable sign that he would at least attempt to take on the explosive issue of gun control. He made clear that the deaths compelled the nation to act, and that he was the leader of a nation that was failing to keep its children safe. He spoke of a broader effort, never outlining exactly what he would push for, but outraged by another shooting rampage.
"Can we say that 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? I've been reflecting on this the last few days," the president said, somber and steady in his voice. "And if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough and we will have to change."
He promised in the coming weeks to talk with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators on an effort to prevent mass shootings.
The shootings have restarted a debate in Washington about what politicians can to do help — gun control or otherwise. Obama has called for "meaningful action" to prevent killings.
"Surely we can do better than this," he said. "We have an obligation to try."