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Obama: "We have been through this too many times"

In an emotional response to the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama said today, "As a country, we have been through this too many times."

"Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children," he continued, appearing to choke up at times. "We're going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Around 9:30 a.m. this morning, a man armed with at least two guns opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooting left 27 people dead, including 20 children, six adults and the shooter. The motive for the shootings is still unclear, but CBS News has learned that the shooter's mother was a teacher at the school.

Mr. Obama was first notified of the shooting at 10:30 a.m. by Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan. The president called Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy to express his condolences and pledge whatever resources the federal government can bring to bear to assist the families and the investigation. He also spoke with FBI Director Robert Mueller about the incident, and the FBI is providing support to state and local police.

Mr. Obama said that after such events, "I react not as a president but as anybody else would, as a parent, and that was especially true today."

The president appeared grief-stricken, taking multiple pauses during his remarks from the White House briefing room -- a room officially named the "James S. Brady Press Briefing Room" after James Brady, the White House press secretary who took one of the bullets directed at President Reagan in 1981. White House spokesman Jay Carney and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco sat in the briefing room while the president spoke, holding hands with tears welling in their eyes.

"I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief I do," Mr. Obama said, noting that the majority of the victims were "children, beautiful little kids... They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."

Mr. Obama said he and First Lady Michelle Obama today would "hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them."

He noted, however, that "there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now in the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as president to help."

The president today signed a proclamation, "as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated," ordering all American flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Dec. 18. In light of today's events, Mr. Obama also canceled an event scheduled for Wednesday in Portland, Maine, where he was expected to talk about the "fiscal cliff."

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House Speaker John Boehner and other leaders released remarks today expressing their condolences for the victims.

"The horror of this day seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil," Boehner said. "Let us all come together in God's grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering. Let us give thanks for all those who helped get people to safety, and take heart from their example. The House of Representatives - like every American - stands ready to assist the people of Newtown, Connecticut."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that renewing the federal ban on assault weapons remains one of Mr. Obama's commitments, but Carney added that today is not the day for the "usual Washington policy debates."

In a petition on the White House website today, tens of thousands of Americans asked the president to "set a date and time to have a conversation about gun policy in the United States." The White House has said it will respond to all petitions on its "We the People" website that receive more than 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

Astronaut Mark Kelly -- whose wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting -- posted a note on Facebook today to address the latest tragedy.

"As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right," Kelly wrote. "This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws - and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait."

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