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Two more funerals in Newtown; NRA responds to school massacre

December 18, 2012|By Tina Susman and Michael Muskal
  • Close relatives of Jessica Rekos, 6, arrive at Saint Rose of Lima Church on December 18, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut to attend her funeral service.
Close relatives of Jessica Rekos, 6, arrive at Saint Rose of Lima Church… (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty…)

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Two more of the children killed by a gunman who invaded a Connecticut elementary school were buried on Tuesday as officials released new details of the deadly spree that has reshaped the debate over gun control.

The National Rifle Assn., which has been under pressure to comment on the Newtown shootings, broke its silence and issued a statement saying it was ready to offer its plans at a Friday news conference.

“We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown,” said the pro-gun rights lobbying group, which has repeatedly fought gun-control legislation on the national, state and local levels. “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre

Both funerals were held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, which has been one of the centers for consoling the bereaved and for memorial services that began Friday evening, hours after Adam Lanza opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Primarily using a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, Lanza killed 20 children and six adults in the school before turning a handgun on himself, authorities said. The rampage began Friday morning when Lanza killed his mother, Nancy, in the home they shared.

Dr. H. Wayne Carver, the state’s chief medical examiner, told reporters on Tuesday that Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. She was most likely asleep when she was killed, Carver said, according to the Hartford Courant.

After shooting his mother, Adam Lanza took her car and several of her guns and went to the school, where he forcibly entered and opened fire. The Bushmaster and two handguns were later recovered from the building and a shotgun was found in the car, officials said.

Sandy Hook Elementary remains closed, most likely for months, as investigators continue their work seeking to understand why Lanza did what he did. The hundreds of students at the school are being relocated to a school in nearby Monroe, Conn.

In the rain and cold Tuesday, other Newtown students returned to their schools where teachers were prepared to help them cope with the massacre. Campuses also had a sizable police presence to reassure parents.

One Newtown school, Head O'Meadow Elementary, was locked down Tuesday due to an unspecified threat. The principal told parents to keep their children home, according to a letter from the principal published by WFSB-TV. Police have said they will deal harshly with hoaxes and threats, including two directed over the weekend at St. Rose.

The first funeral Tuesday morning was for James Mattioli, 6. In what has become an ongoing sight, mourners kept their heads down and walked quickly into the building, and refused to comment. The families have repeatedly asked for privacy for their grief, a position backed by local police.

James' funeral was the first of eight to be held at the church. By noon, flowers for the second service, for Jessica Rekos, also 6, had begun to arrive.

James has been described by family members as a budding “numbers guy.” Jessica was a horse enthusiast who wanted cowgirl boots for Christmas, relatives told reporters.

A wake was scheduled Tuesday night for slain teacher Victoria Soto. Police were to be part of an honor guard for Soto, who died trying to protect her students by getting them into a closet and putting her body between the gunman and her charges.

The shootings have reopened the debate on gun-control laws, specifically whether to renew the expired national ban on assault weapons. President Obama has asked his staff to come up with proposals, though no time frame for action has been given. Even staunch pro-gun rights lawmakers have also called for reopening discussion on some bans.

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Susman reported from Newtown, Conn., and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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