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Sympathy over US school shooting stretches globe

Saturday - 12/15/2012, 5:26pm  ET

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2012 photo, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks to media in Bali, Indonesia. Leaders of two of the closest longtime allies of the United States have been quick to express sympathy over a shooting rampage that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, at a Connecticut elementary school. Gillard said in a statement Saturday that her country shares America's shock at what she called "this senseless and incomprehensible act of evil." (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati, File)

CASSANDRA VINOGRAD
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- As the world joined Americans in mourning the school massacre in Connecticut, many urged U.S. politicians to honor the 28 victims, especially the children, by pushing for stronger gun control laws.

Twitter users and media personalities in the U.K. immediately invoked Dunblane -- a 1996 shooting in that small Scottish town which killed 16 children. That tragedy prompted a campaign that ultimately led to tighter gun controls effectively making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun in the U.K.

"This is America's Dunblane," British CNN host Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter. "We banned handguns in Britain after that appalling tragedy. What will the U.S. do? Inaction not an option."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Friday's attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a "senseless and incomprehensible act of evil."

"Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken," Gillard said in a statement, referring to the U.S. leader's emotional expression of condolence.

Australia confronted a similar tragedy in 1996, when a man went on a shooting spree in the southern state of Tasmania, killing 35 people. The mass killing sparked outrage across the country and led the government to impose strict new gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

Rupert Murdoch recalled that incident in a Twitter message calling the shootings "terrible news" and asking "when will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy."

The mass shooting in Connecticut left 28 people dead, including 20 children. The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home Friday before beginning his deadly rampage inside the school in Newtown, then committed suicide, police said.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union's executive Commission, said: "Young lives full of hope have been destroyed. On behalf of the European Commission and on my own behalf, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the "horrific shooting."

"My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones," he said. "It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them."

Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama, saying she was shocked to learn of the "dreadful loss of life" and that the thoughts and prayers of all in the U.K. are with those affected by the events.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI conveyed "his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all those affected by the shocking event" in a condolence message to the monsignor of the diocese in Connecticut that includes Newtown.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her "deepest sympathy" is reserved for relatives of the victims.

"Once again we stand aghast at a deed that cannot be comprehended," she said in a statement. "The thought of the murdered pupils and teachers makes my heart heavy."

But amid the messages of condolences, much of the discussion after the Connecticut rampage centered on gun control -- a baffling subject for many in Asia and Europe, where mass shootings also have occurred but where access to guns is much more heavily restricted.

In messages to Obama, French President Francois Hollande said he was "horrified" by the shooting while Prince Albert II in the tiny principality of Monaco expressed sadness over the "unspeakable tragedy."

Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the events "particularly tragic" given that the majority of the victims were children. "Vladimir Putin asked Barack Obama to convey words of support and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims and expressed his empathy with the American people," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Father Giuseppe Piemontese -- an Assisi-based official of the Franciscan order, founded to further the cause of peace -- lamented that there are "so many, too many" tragic shootings that "raise the question about the ease with which you can legally procure arms in the United States, to then use them in a murderous way."

The attack quickly dominated public discussion in China, rocketing to the top of topic lists on social media and becoming the top story on state television's main noon newscast.

China has seen several rampage attacks at schools in recent years, though the attackers there usually use knives and not guns. The most recent attack happened Friday, when a knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China.

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