NEWTOWN, Conn. - US President Barack Obama on Sunday consoled the Connecticut town shattered by the massacre of 20 young schoolchildren, lauding residents' courage in the face of tragedy and saying the United States was not doing enough to protect its children.

"Surely we can do better than this," Obama told a packed high school auditorium.

The emotional prayer vigil capped a day when worshippers sought solace in churches to mourn the victims of Friday's slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman used a military-style assault rifle to kill six adults and 20 first-graders before committing suicide.

All the dead children were either 6 or 7 years old, feeding more emotion into a revived debate about whether stricter gun laws could prevent future mass shootings in the United States.

"Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of the nation," Obama said. "I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts."

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