Nation pauses for Newtown victims

Across the nation Friday morning, church bells will toll. Flags will fly at half-staff. Many websites will go silent. And office workers and homemakers, students and nursing home residents, Americans in at least 29 states will stop whatever they’re doing to remember the lives snatched when a gunman burst into a Connecticut elementary school exactly a week ago and rained hell.

Alaska, Massachusetts and South Carolina are among states that have declared a moment of silence for 9:30 a.m., marking the hour one week ago that the gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 students, six adults then himself dead in Newtown.

Adam Lanza had killed his mother before arriving at the school.

A little over an hour later, one group that has kept mum through all the calls for gun control will break its silence: the National Rifle Association.

The NRA news conference with executive director Wayne LaPierre will begin at 10:45 a.m.

The gun rights organization had initially deactivated its Facebook page, stopped tweeting on its Twitter account and had been issuing a “no comment” to any media outlet, including CNN, seeking a response.

But late Tuesday, the group broke that silence with a statement:

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters — and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. … The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again,” the group said. Both its Facebook and Twitter presences became active again.

Despite the relative silence early on from the powerful lobbying group’s offices in Fairfax, Virginia, the organization is regrouping in anticipation of a massive legislative push for gun control legislation, a gun policy expert said.

Kristin Goss, an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of “Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America,” said that strategy is part of the organization’s playbook after an incident such as this one.

After such a terrifying event, when there is a national outcry, the NRA typically lays low, Goss said.

“They’re used to seeing this cycle, express condolences and hope the attention will shift to a new issue.”

Governors show support

But for now, the nation’s attention still seems focused on Sandy Hook, where investigations into the crime are expected to continue for weeks to come.

The national outpouring of sympathy over the deaths continues, as three more victims are to be laid to rest Friday.

In a letter sent to other governors around the country, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy noted how the shooting in his state has resonated nationwide.

“Mourning this tragedy has extended beyond Newtown, beyond the borders of Connecticut, and has spread across the nation and the world,” he said. “On behalf of the State of Connecticut, we appreciate the letters and calls of support that have been delivered to our state and to the family members during their hour of need.”

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma suggested residents wear green, Sandy Hook’s school color, and in Alaska, the State Capitol’s bell will ring at 9:30 a.m. local time. The bell is a full-scale replica of the Liberty Bell.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have called for residents of their states to pause to reflect one week after the shooting rampage. Perry also asked that churches ring their bells 26 times in honor of the victims at the school.

The states honoring a moment of silence are Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

President Barack Obama ordered flags to half-staff last Friday after the shooting. Flags will also fly at half-staff this Friday.

Some websites will go dark at the urging of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway, who came up with the idea at a Christmas party attended by Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six.

Obama starts gun control debate

Obama will take part in the moment of silence Friday, a White House spokesman said. On Thursday, his administration put into motion an effort to change U.S. gun laws.

Vice President Joe Biden met with Cabinet members and law enforcement leaders at the White House to start formulating what Obama called “real reforms right now.”

More than 195,000 people have signed an online White House petition supporting new gun control legislation.

A slight majority of Americans favor major restrictions on guns: 52%, up five points from a survey taken in August after the July shooting inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people died, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday.

Carloads of teenagers from a Minnesota school that suffered a mass shooting in 2005 headed toward Newtown on Thursday to offer their support.

Also Thursday, burials were held for three children and two teachers.

More than 2,200 miles west of Newtown, Ogden, Utah, the hometown of shooting victim Emilie Parker, was festooned with pink ribbons as her parents brought her body back for burial.

“This sucks — there’s no reason for us to be here tonight,” her father, Robbie Parker, told friends and well-wishers at a memorial service Thursday night. “And I’m so thankful for everybody that’s here.”

His voice trailed off as he struggled for composure. Seeing the pink — his slain daughter’s favorite color — made him and his wife, Alissa, “feel like we were getting a big hug from everybody.”

Also buried Thursday, at an undisclosed location, was Nancy Lanza, the shooter’s mother, who he killed before the school rampage, said Donald Briggs, a friend of the family who grew up with her in Kingston, New Hampshire.

Plans had not been finalized for the burial of the gunman, her son, Adam.

Three 6-year-olds were among those buried Thursday: Allison Wyatt, who loved to draw and wanted to be an artist; Benjamin Wheeler, who loved the Beatles; and red-haired Catherine Hubbard, who loved animals.

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