December 21, 2012 12:33:53 PM
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown on Friday, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community -- and the nation -- to its core.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gathered with other officials on the steps of the town hall as the bell rang 26 times in memory of each life lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother before the massacre, and himself afterward.
Officials didn't plan any formal remarks Friday morning, when similar commemorations were planned throughout the country.
Though the massacre does not rank as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history -- that happened at Virginia Tech -- the tender age of the victims and the absence of any apparent motive has struck at Americans' hearts and minds. The gunman used a military-style assault rifle loaded with ammunition intended to inflict maximum damage, officials have said.
The White House said President Barack Obama planned to privately observe the moment of silence.
Just a week after the attack, gun control has taken a front burner in Congress, where previous mass shootings produced only minimal legislative reaction. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that the Obama administration would push to tighten gun laws.
The National Rifle Association plans a Friday morning news conference, its first public event since the shootings. The nation's largest gun-rights lobby with 4.3 million members has said it will offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
When the bells tolled mournfully to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they did so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.