(CNN) – Lawmakers responded with condolences and some called for stricter gun laws in the aftermath of Friday's mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.
In one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning and opened fire on teachers and students. The dead include 20 children, six adults and the suspected shooter, who was apparently died by his own hand.
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In a rare display of emotion, President Barack Obama wiped away tears and paused to collect himself when responding to the shooting. Obama said "we've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years" and ordered flags be flown at half-staff "as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated."
The White House cancelled the president's scheduled trip to Maine on Wednesday, and House Speaker John Boehner announced there would not be a Republican weekly address so "President Obama can speak for the entire nation at this time of mourning."
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy told reporters outside the school Friday evening, "Evil visited this community today."
"It's too early to speak of recovery but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut, we're all in this together," he said. "We will get through it. This is a terrible time for this community and these families."
Rep. Chris Murphy, whose district includes Newtown, said he was "shocked and saddened by the horrific news." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a retiring lawmaker from Connecticut, said as he and his staff monitor the situation his "prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy," underscoring the importance of providing responders the resources needed to keep the community safe.
Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona, a victim in the Arizona mass shooting which also injured former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last year, said "as those of us in Tucson know, senseless acts such as these tear at the very fabric of a community."
"In times like this, we come together to support each other. To the people of Newtown, we are with you today and in the days, weeks and months ahead."
One of the staunchest gun-control advocates, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed disbelief in a statement released by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which he co-chairs.
"With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen," he said noting Obama's "heartfelt" response to the tragedy but calling for more than just rhetoric on gun-control legislation.
"This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever," he said.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said "our hearts are broken by this terrible tragedy."
"We have to take terrible moments like this and use it as a catalyst to demand the sensible change in our nation that is too long overdue. We are better than this," he said adding the group was "moved" by Obama's visible emotion during his remarks and "committed to working with him to channel it into the change that is too long overdue."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said these types of shootings "are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies."
"But words fail to describe today's heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Duncan said. "As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community."
Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, speculated to be mulling a run for the White House in 2016, released a statement condemning the shooting as "a deed of unconscionable evil."
"My heart breaks for the victims and families impacted by the senseless act of violence today in Newtown, Connecticut. In a world that can at times be defined by its darkness, children are a reminder of what is good, cheerful and beautiful about life," he said.
Religious leader Franklin Graham offered his prayers to the community of Newtown saying "senseless killings like the one we've seen today in Newtown, Conn., leaves us stunned and looking for answers."
"The Bible tells us the human heart is 'wicked' and 'who can know it?' My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community," he said. "One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that God loves each one of the victims and all those who are suffering right now as a result of this vicious act."
In giving their thoughts and prayers to the affect families, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said, "If there were ever a day to hug your child a little longer, a little close, today is the day."
"The loss of life and innocence is devastating, and I pray for healing for the entire Newtown community and our country."
As lawmakers sent their regards to the Newtown community, a leading children's advocacy group, Children's Defense Fund, held a vigil with individuals affected by gun violence outside of the White House.
At the vigil in Washington, U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro, from Connecticut, told CNN the shooting was "unthinkable," adding that as she spends time with her grandchildren in Washington the tragedy "really hits so close to home."
"These beautiful angels who had so much to live for," she said of the children killed in the shooting. "It seems so senseless and, as I said, unthinkable that this could happen. But it has."
Two other vigils will be held Friday evening - one in Newtown and Hartford, Connecticut.
CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.