WASHINGTON — Calling for an end to "an epidemic of gun violence," President Barack Obama on Sunday mourned the loss of the 12 who were killed in the mass shooting at Navy Yard, urging reforms to how firearms are regulated.
"Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal,” Obama said. "We cannot accept this.”
Surrounded by victims' families and about 4,000 mourners at Marine Barracks Washington, just blocks from the Navy facility where the shooting took place, Obama and other officials led a memorial service, playing taps to honor the victims and tolling a bell as each if their names were read.
"These patriots designed and built our ships," said Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command. "These 12 members of our Navy team...were killed in the line of duty. They died in the service to our nation...in service they were just as committed to as any of us in uniform."
It was at Navy Yard that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, fatally shot 12 and wounded at least eight others, including a police officer, according to authorities. Alexis, who was reportedly suffering from mental health issues, was killed in a gunfight with police at the Sept. 16 shooting.
Those killed were: Michael W. Arnold, 59; Martin J. Bodrog, 54; Arthur L. Daniels, 51; Sylvia R. Frasier, 53; Kathleen N. Gaarde, 62; John R. Johnson, 73; Mary Francis DeLorenzo Knight, 51; Frank E. Kohler, 50; Vishnu S. Pandit, 61; Kenneth B. Proctor, 46; Gerald E. Read, 58; and Richard Michael Ridgell, 52.
They ranged from a security guard to civilian employees and contractors working in support of Naval Sea Systems Command, which is headquartered at the base.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama met with the families beforehand, and offered each of them a hug during the service.
“We revere the men and women in uniform who have paid the final price in defense of our freedoms. These nine men and three women deserve no less,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “Without these civilians at Naval Sea Systems Command, we literally would not have a fleet to put to sea.”
Obama noted that the Navy Yard shooting is the fifth mass shooting that has occurred during his presidency -- preceded by Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora and Sandy Hook -- and lamented that “politics are frozen and that nothing will change.”
“Do we care enough to spare other families the pain that is felt here today?” Obama asked. “"Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have to change."