LONDON (CNN) — The massacre of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook School in the U.S. state of Connecticut has provoked global shock, with many taking to social media sites to express sorrow for the victims and their families — and anger at the gunman, who also killed his mother before the rampage.
But there was hope, too, that the latest in America’s deadly string of shooting rampages might finally lead to a change in the gun culture that many blamed, at least in part, for the killings.
World leaders, from Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard to her Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, and Britain’s David Cameron all offered their sympathies to those involved in the attack at Newtown.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II also sent a message of sympathy to those caught up in the tragedy.
For many, the shooting spree revived memories of previous gun massacres, from Hungerford in the UK to Tasmania in Australia and Oslo in Norway in 2011.
Britain’s Sun tabloid noted that “the slaughter in Connecticut brought back the horror of the Dunblane massacre,” in which 16 children and their teacher were shot dead at a school in Scotland in March 1996.
In an editoral, the Sun said the latest shooting “defie[d] belief,” but pointed out that “in the months following Dunblane, public revulsion led to new laws that effectively made the private ownership of handguns illegal [in the UK].”
In Australia, too, gun control laws were tightened in the wake of a murderous rampage: The killing of 35 people in April 1996, most of them at Port Arthur, a popular historic site on the island of Tasmania.
Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to ask: “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy.”
And writing in the UK’s Observer newspaper, Ben Adler questioned whether the Sandy Hook massacre may yet prove to be the moment America’s attitude towards guns changes.
“This time the shock is more extreme, the feeling more visceral, and the political pivot — towards the need for greater gun control — faster and more focused,” he wrote.
“Perhaps it is because so many of the victims were [so young] … Perhaps, finally, it is because Americans can only tolerate so many senseless deaths from gun violence.”
On the website of Germany’s Spiegel news magazine, Johannes Korge, too, suggested that the sheer defenselessness of the young victims of Friday’s rampage might be enough to shift attitudes to gun control.
“This time it is different. The victims are the youngest members of society, completely defenseless, completely innocent.”
Korge also argues that Obama is operating from a position of power, saying he no longer has to worry about upsetting swing voters.
“Rarely has the chance for real change been as great as it is now… Obama can — if he really wants to see his words turned into deeds — afford to crack down.”
In China too, the state-run Xinhua news agency said that Obama’s recent election victory should enable him to force through legislation on gun control, which it said was a “sensitive social issue” in a country in which “34% of households own guns [and where] firearms lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association hold great sway.”
Xinhua’s report insisted that the “blood and tears” of the killer’s 27 innocent victims “demand no delay.”
That view was echoed by U.S. House of Representatives member Jerrold Nadler, an outspoken supporter of stricter gun control laws, on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight: “In the United States, we had 9,000 people killed with guns last year; in similar countries like Germany, 170, and Canada, 150… If this doesn’t wake us up, I don’t know what will. “
And while many in the U.S. and around the world wait to see if the tragedy at Sandy Hook will lead to a change in the law, The Sun editorial says “for now, all we can do is pray for yet another community ripped apart.”