LONDON — Images of a tearful President Barack Obama speaking after a shooting rampage in Connecticut resonated around the world, with many outside the United States expressing hope Saturday that America’s latest school massacre would prompt the country to strengthen gun control.
Shock and sympathy were the initial reactions to the rampage that left 28 people dead, including 20 children at an elementary school — though as dawn broke in the U.S., questions swirled overseas about the easy access to guns in America.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union’s executive Commission, said: “Young lives full of hope have been destroyed. On behalf of the European Commission and on my own behalf, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.”
The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home before beginning his deadly rampage inside the school in Newtown, Connecticut, then committed suicide, police said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the “horrific shooting.”
“My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones,” he said. “It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them.”
Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama, saying she was shocked to learn of the “dreadful loss of life” and that the thoughts and prayers of all in the U.K. are with those affected by the events.
Pope Benedict XVI asked the Holy See’s secretary of state to “convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all those affected by the shocking event,” the Vatican said Saturday. It also sent a condolence message to Monsignor Jerald A. Doyle at the diocese in Connecticut that includes Newton.
But amid the messages of condolences, much of the discussion after the Connecticut rampage centered on gun control — a baffling subject for many in Asia and Europe, where mass shootings also have occurred but where access to guns is much more heavily restricted.
Many Twitter users and media personalities in the U.K. immediately invoked Dunblane — a 1996 shooting in that small Scottish town which killed 16 children. That tragedy prompted a campaign that ultimately led to tighter gun controls effectively making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun in the U.K.
“This is America’s Dunblane,” British CNN host Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter late Friday. “We banned handguns in Britain after that appalling tragedy. What will the U.S. do? Inaction not an option.”
French President Francois Hollande said in an open letter to Obama that he was “horrified” by the shooting, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the events “particularly tragic,” given that the majority of the victims were children.
“Vladimir Putin asked Barack Obama to convey words of support and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims and expressed his empathy with the American people,” the Kremlin said in a statement about Putin’s message to the U.S. president.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the attack as a “senseless and incomprehensible act of evil.”
“Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken,” Gillard said in a statement, referring to the U.S. leader’s emotional expression of condolence.
Australia confronted a similar tragedy in 1996, when a man went on a shooting spree in the southern state of Tasmania, killing 35 people. The mass killing sparked outrage across the country and led the government to impose strict new gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.
The attack quickly dominated public discussion in China, rocketing to the top of topic lists on social media and becoming the top story on state television’s main noon newscast.
China has seen several rampage attacks at schools in recent years, though the attackers there usually use knives and not guns. The most recent attack happened Friday, when a knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China.
With more than 100,000 Chinese studying in U.S. schools, a sense of shared grief came through.
“Parents with children studying in the U.S. must be tense. School shootings happen often in the U.S. Can’t politicians put away politics and prohibit gun sales?” Zhang Xin, a wealthy property developer, wrote on her feed on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, where she has 4.9 million followers. “There will always be mental patients among us. They should not be given guns.”
In India, Kiran Bedi, a retired pioneering policewoman who is now a major anti-corruption activist, tweeted in the shorthand style familiar to users of text services that: “Firearms in hands of unbalanced r security threat! Gun/even Driving license issue needs due diligence! They r responsibility before a right!”
Some in South Korea, whose government does not allow people to possess guns privately, blamed a lack of gun control in the United States for the high number of deaths in Connecticut. Most people on the Internet expressed utter shock at the scale of the tragedy, many of them calling it frightful and unimaginable and expressing condolences to the families of the victims.
Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s top daily, speculated in an online report that it appears “inevitable” that the shooting will prompt the U.S. government to consider tighter gun control.
In Thailand, which has one of Asia’s highest rates of murder by firearms and has seen schools attacked by Islamist insurgents in its southern provinces, a columnist for the English-language daily newspaper The Nation blamed American culture for fostering a climate of violence.
“Repeated incidents of gunmen killing innocent people have shocked the Americans or us, but also made most people ignore it quickly,” Thanong Khanthong wrote on Twitter. “Because each Hollywood movie, namely Batman and Spiderman, have hidden the message of violence and brutal killings.”
“Intentionally or not, Hollywood and video games have prepared people’s mind to see killings and violence as normal and acceptable,” he wrote.
In Japan, where guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes, public broadcaster NHK led the noon news Saturday with the shooting, putting it ahead of an update on the final day of campaigning before Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary elections.
NHK, which had a reporter giving a live broadcast from the scene, said that five of the children at the school were Japanese, and that all five were safe. Its report could not immediately be independently confirmed.
Condolences poured in also from Baghdad.
“We feel sorry for the victims and their families. And this tragic incident shows there is no violence-free society in the world, even in Western and non-Muslim countries,” said Hassan Sabah, 30, owner of stationary shop in eastern Baghdad.
Samir Abdul-Karim, a 40-year-old government employee from eastern Baghdad said, “This attack shows clearly that U.S. society is not perfect and the Americans do have people with criminal minds and who are ready to kill for the silliest reasons. “
He added, “If such an attack happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, I am sure the U.S. media would have seized the chance to depict the Arabs or Muslims as savage people who do not hesitate to kill children. “
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent a condolence message to Obama. “We express our condolences to the families of the victims,” he said. “The sympathy of the Japanese people is with the American people.”
In the Philippines, a society often afflicted by gun violence, President Benigno Aquino III said he and the Filipino people stand beside the United States “with bowed heads, yet in deep admiration over the manner in which the American people have reached out to comfort the afflicted, and to search for answers that will give meaning and hope to this grim event.
“We pray for healing, and that this heartbreak will never be visited on any community ever again,” Aquino said in a statement tweeted by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte.
Peck reported from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Malcolm Foster and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Charles Hutzler in Beijing, Ravi Nessman in New Delhi, Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Oliver Teves in Manila, Philippines, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad, Don Melvin in Brussels, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.