Obama to mark Sandy Hook school shooting anniversary: White House

A memorial outside a home in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on Dec 10, 2013, honouring the victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. US President Barack Obama this weekend will mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Ho
A memorial outside a home in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on Dec 10, 2013, honouring the victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. US President Barack Obama this weekend will mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 young children dead, the White House said on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama this weekend will mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 young children dead, the White House said on Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013.

The President and First Lady Michelle Obama on Saturday plan to remember those who lost their lives in the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed 26 lives, including 20 six- and seven-year-old children.

"On Saturday, December 14, the President and First Lady will honour the lives and legacies of the children and educators lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago by observing a moment of silence at the White House," a White House official said.

Mr Obama had hoped that the Sandy Hook tragedy would become a rallying cry for long overdue gun reform, including tougher background checks on those seeking to purchase firearms.

In a rare display of tears, the President at a public event not long after the shooting promised Sandy Hook parents that their children's deaths would not be in vain.

The massacre was carried out by an emotionally troubled youth who took his own life at the shooting scene.

But a year after the tragedy, which traumatised the nation less than two weeks before the Christmas holiday, only a handful of US states have toughened their firearms laws, amid considerable pushback against reform by America's powerful gun lobby.

Mr Obama has vowed to press on with efforts to tackle the problem using decrees and administrative measures.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a US$100 million (S$125 million) boost in funding for mental health services, as he met on Tuesday with families of the children killed at Newtown.

"The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable," Mr Biden said, adding that he and Mr Obama had made access to mental health care a "priority". Half the money will go to enabling community health centres to offer behavioural health services to people suffering from mental illness or addiction, the White House statement said.

Another US$50 million will be earmarked by the Department of Agriculture for the construction of mental health facilities in rural areas, it added, confirming details provided earlier to Agence France-Presse by an official.