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Town mourns as it begins to bury its young

Debate on gun control takes form

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NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Newtown began burying its dead Monday, laying to rest two six-year-old boys, the first of the 20 children killed in last week's school massacre to receive funerals.

Two funeral homes filled with mourners for Noah Pozner, whose twin sister survived the rampage, and Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants football team. The gunman also killed six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, and his mother in her home, before committing suicide.

A rabbi presided at Noah's service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket with a Star of David on it. Noah's twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, an attack so horrifying authorities could not say three days later whether the school would ever reopen.

Around the U.S., school systems asked police departments to increase patrols Monday and sent messages to parents outlining safety procedures. Teachers steeled themselves for their students' questions and fears.

Meanwhile, the outlines of a debate on gun control began to take shape. At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said curbing gun violence is a complex problem that will require a "comprehensive solution."

Carney did not offer specific proposals or a timeline. He said U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with law enforcement officials and mental-health professionals in coming weeks.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, flanked by shooting survivors and relatives of victims of gunfire around the U.S., pressed Obama and Congress to toughen gun laws and tighten enforcement after the Newtown massacre.

"If this doesn't do it," he asked, "what is going to?"

Lanza is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, a civilian version of the military's M-16. It is similar to the weapon used in a recent shopping mall shooting in Oregon and other deadly attacks around the U.S. Versions of the AR-15 were outlawed in the U.S. under the 1994 assault weapons ban, but the law expired in 2004.

At least one senator, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, said Monday the attack in Newtown has led him to rethink his opposition to the ban on assault weapons.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who is an avid hunter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, said it is time to move beyond the political rhetoric and begin an honest discussion about reasonable restrictions on guns.

He added: "This is bigger than just about guns. It's about how we treat people with mental illness, how we intervene, how we get them the care they need, how we protect our schools. It's just so sad."

Newtown, a community of 27,000 people about an hour northeast of New York City, will face many more funerals over the next few days, just as other towns are getting ready for the holidays.

Beyond Newtown, parents nervously sent their children back to class in a country deeply shaken by the attack, and in a measure of how the tragedy has put people on edge, schools were locked down in at least four places.

As investigators worked to figure out what drove Lanza to lash out with such fury -- and why he singled out the school -- federal agents said he had fired guns at shooting ranges over the past several years, but there was no evidence he did so recently as practice for the rampage.

At Jack Pinto's Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home, where the boy lay in an open casket in the Giants' star wide receiver Victor Cruz's No. 80 jersey. Jack was among the youngest members of a youth wrestling association in Newtown, and dozens of little boys turned up at the service in grey Newtown Wrestling T-shirts.

Ten-year-old Luke Wellman remembered a boy who loved football and was a big fan of Cruz, who played in Sunday's game with the words "Jack Pinto 'My Hero' " written on one of his cleats.

A mourner, Gwendolyn Glover, said the service carried a message of comfort and protection, particularly for other children. "The message was: You're secure now. The worst is over," she said.

At Noah's funeral, the boy was described as a smart, funny and mischievous child who loved animals, Mario Brothers video games and tacos.

"I will miss your forceful and purposeful little steps stomping through our house. I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room," his mother, Veronique Pozner, told mourners, said Noah's uncle, Alexis Haller, who provided the remarks to The Associated Press.

Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the rampage.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2012 A4

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