By Edward Krudy and Peter Rudegeair
NEWTOWN, Connecticut (Reuters) – The White House was set to reveal the first steps of a gun-control plan on Wednesday as the United States grieved for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in another wave of funerals.
The funerals scheduled for Wednesday included those for four children, a teacher and the principal of the Connecticut school stormed by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza on Friday. After killing his mother at home, Lanza drove to the school and used a semi-automatic assault rifle to kill 20 children and six women.
Vice President Joe Biden will lead an effort to craft policies to reduce gun violence in a plan President Barack Obama was to lay out on Wednesday morning.
Obama was not expected to unveil policy decisions, but to outline how his administration will proceed, White House aides said. The move could signal that he will make the issue a second-term priority and add momentum to a national debate over tighter gun-control laws.
Obama has turned to Biden in the past to take a role in high-profile initiatives, including efforts on a deficit-reduction compromise with congressional Republicans in 2011.
The massacre of so many children, all of whom were just 6 or 7 years old, shocked the United States and the world and renewed debate over gun control in a nation where the right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution and fiercely defended by many.
Around the globe, newspaper editorials from the Philippines to South Africa urged U.S. gun-control efforts and said they were long overdue.
"It takes no great deductive genius to understand the link: a violent individual with a gun will be more able to kill, and can kill more people, than a violent individual without a gun. Elsewhere in the world, tighter gun laws have been shown to save lives," said an editorial in India’s The Hindu newspaper.
After the shooting spree at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, Lanza killed himself.
The family of the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, invited mourners to visit at a local funeral home on Wednesday afternoon, though her burial was due to be private at an undisclosed time.
Another of the teachers, Victoria Soto, was among those to be buried on Wednesday.
Funerals were also scheduled for 6-year-old Charlotte Bacon, 7-year-old Daniel Barden and 6-year-old Caroline Previdi, while the family of 7-year-old Chase Kowalski invited mourners to a public visitation and prayer vigil.
The surviving children from Sandy Hook Elementary faced another day at home as school authorities and parents made plans for an eventual return to a different location – the unused Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe, where a sign across the street read, "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary!"
At Sandy Hook itself, well-wishers and mourners have left tributes such as candles, flowers and stuffed animals. A heavy rain that fell most of Tuesday had soaked many of them and extinguished some of the candles, leaving a smell of burned wax in the air as police continued their investigations inside.
They have said the investigation could take months and have revealed nothing yet about Lanza’s motive.
Well-wishers came to Newtown from as far afield as Iowa. Beth Howard said she had driven 17 hours from Eldon, Iowa, to see what she could do to help. She joined a group of people from New Jersey who decided to bake pies for residents of the town to show their solidarity and support.
"It has already made the trip worthwhile," said Howard, describing the smiles she got from local residents.
The first of many funerals was held on Monday and two children were laid to rest on Tuesday. Most of the town’s schools reopened on Tuesday, but there was no immediate word on when the Sandy Hook students would be back in the classroom.
The impact of the shooting was felt in the business world on Tuesday when private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP said it would sell its investment in the company that makes the AR-15-type Bushmaster rifle that was used by Lanza.
The powerful gun-industry lobby, the National Rifle Association, broke its silence on Tuesday for the first time since the shootings, saying it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" and was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions" to prevent such massacres.
The NRA uses political pressure against individual lawmakers and others to press for loosening constraints on gun sales and ownership across the United States while promoting hunting and gun sports.
The group, which said it had not commented until now out of respect for the families and to allow time for mourning and an investigation, plans a news conference on Friday.
The massacre prompted some Republican lawmakers to open the door to a national debate about gun control, a small sign of easing in Washington’s entrenched reluctance to seriously consider new federal restrictions.
(Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis, Edith Honan, Dan Burns, Patricia Zengerle, David Ingram, Chris Francescani; Writing by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Brunnstrom)