New York/Washington: The shooting spree in a Connecticut school that left 20 small children and six adults dead capped a tragic year for the US, which saw similar massacres in a Colorado theatre and Wisconsin gurdwara, putting pressure on the Obama administration to take action on the country`s gun laws.
20-year-old Adam Lanza has been identified as the lone gunman who, after killing his mother at home, opened indiscriminate fire in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and gunned down 20 children aged between 5 and 10 as well as six adults.
Lanza, wearing black combat gear and armed with semi-automatic pistol and a semi-automatic rifle, is understood to have then turned the weapon on himself and was found dead inside the school building.
The incident sent shockwaves across America and an emotional President Barack Obama called for "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies" as he fought back tears in a televised press conference and said the "beautiful little kids" who were killed "had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."
He said America has gone through such "tragedies" too many times and the nation has to come together and take "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
"Whether it`s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a (Sikh) temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theatre in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighbourhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children," he said wiping away tears and pausing for several seconds as he tried to regain his composure.
Meanwhile, an online petition addressed to the White House, which calls for addressing the issue of gun control immediately through legislation in US Congress, secured over 43,000 signatures in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at the elementary school.
The shooting drew sharp criticism from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said mere words of condolences from Obama would not be enough and the President has to take "immediate action" to put in place stricter gun control laws in the country.
Bloomberg, who is also the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said after similar incidents of "madness" in Virginia Tech, Aurora and Wisconsin, it is time Obama send a bill on gun laws to Congress to fix the problem.
"With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it`s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe," he said in a statement.
The New York Mayor, who has been a vocal advocate for gun control, said Obama calling for "meaningful action" alone is not enough. "We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership? not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response."
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, who consoled parents at the site of the shooting, called the killings "a tragedy of unspeakable terms."
"Evil visited this community today," he said in a brief news conference outside the school.
The tragic shooting, considered among the worst in US history, caps a year which saw lone gunmen target unsuspecting citizens in theatres and places of prayer.
In April this year, a gunman killed seven people and wounded three in a shooting rampage at a Christian college in Oakland.
Later in July, a masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others when he opened fire on moviegoers at a showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora.
The Sikh community was also targeted by a gunman when he attacked a gurdwara in Wisconsin during Sunday morning prayers in August killing six persons and critically injuring three others.