LONDON (AP) — As the world joined Americans in mourning the school massacre in Connecticut, many urged U.S. politicians to honor the 28 victims, especially the children, by pushing for stronger gun control laws.
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. “We banned handguns in Britain after that appalling tragedy. What will the U.S. do? Inaction not an option.”
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Friday’s attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 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.
Rupert Murdoch recalled that incident in a Twitter message calling the shootings “terrible news” and asking “when will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy.”
The mass shooting in Connecticut left 28 people dead, including 20 children. The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home Friday before beginning his deadly rampage inside the school in Newtown, then committed suicide, police said.
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.”
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.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI conveyed “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” in a condolence message to the monsignor of the diocese in Connecticut that includes Newtown.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her “deepest sympathy” is reserved for relatives of the victims.
“Once again we stand aghast at a deed that cannot be comprehended,” she said in a statement. “The thought of the murdered pupils and teachers makes my heart heavy.”
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.
In messages to Obama, French President Francois Hollande said he was “horrified” by the shooting while Prince Albert II in the tiny principality of Monaco expressed sadness over the “unspeakable tragedy.”
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.
Father Giuseppe Piemontese — an Assisi-based official of the Franciscan order, founded to further the cause of peace — lamented that there are “so many, too many” tragic shootings that “raise the question about the ease with which you can legally procure arms in the United States, to then use them in a murderous way.”
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.
Some in South Korea, whose government does not allow people to possess guns privately, also blamed a lack of gun control in the United States for the high number of deaths in Connecticut.
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. “Intentionally or not, Hollywood and video games have prepared people’s mind to see killings and violence as normal and acceptable,” he wrote.
Condolences poured in also from Baghdad.
“We feel sorry for the victims and their families,” said Hassan Sabah, 30, owner of stationary shop in eastern Baghdad. “This tragic incident shows there is no violence-free society in the world, even in Western and non-Muslim countries.”
Samir Abdul-Karim, a 40-year-old government employee from eastern Baghdad said the 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.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to the American nation at the start of his remarks in Kabul on Saturday about Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
“Such incidents should not happen anywhere in the world,” Karzai said, adding that Afghanistan frequently witnesses such tragedies and can sympathize with those affected.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed those sentiments in a letter to Obama expressing his horror at the “savage massacre,” saying that his country knows the “shock and agony” such cruel acts can bring.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent a condolence message to Obama for the families of the victims.
“The sympathy of the Japanese people is with the American people,” he said. In Japan, guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes.
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.”
Close to 50 people gathered Saturday on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach to mourn the victims as part of a demonstration organized by an anti-violence group called Rio de Paz, or Rio of Peace.
Twenty-six black crosses were planted on the white sands of the beach — one for each victim at the school. Messages of solidarity written in English hung from some the crosses.
One of them read: “In Brazil we understand the pain of senseless violence. We grieve the pain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.”
Associated Press writers Grant Peck and Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok, Tais Vilela in Rio de Janeiro, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Malcolm Foster and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Charles Hutzler in Beijing, Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Oliver Teves in Manila, Philippines, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad, Don Melvin in Brussels, Jim Heintz in Moscow, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, Deb Riechmann in Kabul and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.