Newtown pupils return to school

A child looks out of the window of a school bus carrying students from the Newtown school district as it makes its way past the funeral for Sandy Hook student James Mattioli. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A child looks out of the window of a school bus carrying students from the Newtown school district as it makes its way past the funeral for Sandy Hook student James Mattioli. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Students returned to school in the shattered Connecticut town of Newtown for the first time since a gunman's rampage killed 26 people in an elementary school, reviving the gun control debate in Washington and prompting a retailer to pull guns from shelves.

Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down a score of 6- and 7-year-olds and six adults on Friday, will remain closed. It was an active crime scene, with police coming and going past a line of 26 Christmas trees, one for each victim, decorated with ornaments, stuffed animals and balloons in the school colors of green and white.

The rest of Newtown's schools reopened with grief counsellors and police present.

The massacre of young children shocked Americans who had grown accustomed to mass shootings, prompting some US lawmakers to call for tighter gun restrictions and pressuring one private equity firm to sell its investment in a gunmaker.

In addition, Dick's Sporting Goods pulled all guns from its store closest to Newtown and suspended the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles in its stores nationwide.

"It's going to be awful, doing the things we used to do," said Miguel, 16, who stopped by a doughnut shop on his way to Newtown High School. "There's going to be a lot of tears."

When Sandy Hook students go back to school, it will be at the unused Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe, where a sign across the street read, "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary!"

Police have warned it could take months for them to finish their investigation, which was set back because Lanza smashed his computer's hard drive, preventing police from retrieving any data, The New York Times reported, citing a senior law enforcement official.

Investigators have revealed little to nothing about Lanza's motive.

President Barack Obama called for action at a Sunday night prayer vigil in Newtown, and Democratic lawmakers have sought a new push for US gun restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons such as the Bushmaster AR-15-style assault rifle used by Lanza.

The gunman carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in extra clips and shot his victims repeatedly, one of them 11 times. He also shot his mother dead before driving to the school, and then killed himself to end the massacre with a death toll of 28

Some Republicans have shown signs they are willing to at least discuss some gun controls after Newtown.

"You are going to have some people (Republicans) who never, never go there," said Representative Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican. "But yes, I think most Republicans are willing to have a very, very serious conversation about what this means and taking a second look at what the Second Amendment means in the 21st century."

The US Conference of Mayors sent an open letter to Obama urging him to act alone by exercising his executive power in addition to working with Congress.

The nation's powerful gun industry lobby, the National Rifle Association, has remained silent on the Newtown shooting.

US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it was selling its investment in gunmaker Freedom Group following pressure from a major investor, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, which said on Monday it was reviewing its investment with Cerberus.

CalSTRS, the second largest pension fund in the United States, had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website. Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to create Freedom Group.

While Dick's pulled some guns from its shelves, Wal-Mart Stores Inc took down an informational website about semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles. Cabela's Inc continued to advertise AR-15 type Bushmaster rifles on its website, though it said the weapons were not available for sale online or at its Connecticut store.

Police and educators in Newtown tried to ease their quiet town back to normal.

A day after the first two children were buried, funerals took place Tuesday for James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos. Each was 6 years old.

"I just feel its important to be here. I wanted to sit in the back and pay respect. I wanted to cry," said Angela Bergen, who drove 90 minutes from Elizabeth, New Jersey, with her 13-year-old son Jack to attend the Mattioli funeral.

At Newtown High School, a group of three girls hugged each other in the parking lot before starting for the doorway. Counseling was available in the gym for students and staff.

Nanci Wallenta, taking her friend's son to middle school, said she was unworried about security and determined to get back to normal.

"It's an isolated incident," Wallenta said. "You can't go through life being afraid. You can't live in fear. ... We're a strong town."

 

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