US President Barack Obama denounced the country's epidemic of gun violence today and renewed a call for tougher controls on military-style weapons after yet another deadly shooting, saying "enough is enough."
The latest bloodshed came yesterday when a man entered a family planning clinic in the state of Colorado and allegedly opened fire, killing three people, including a police officer, and wounding nine others.
The motive of the suspect now under arrest was not known and police were to interrogate him today.
The tragedy came a day after Americans celebrated their cherished Thanksgiving holiday, a time to relax with family, and ushers in the holiday season in earnest.
Obama said the suspect had been armed with an assault weapon – that was the first official word of this detail – and he also disclosed for the first time that the man had held hostages at the Planned Parenthood center from which he opened fire at people outside in an hours long standoff with police.
"We have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough," Obama said in a statement.
The gunman had entered a Planned Parenthood clinic around noon Friday and started shooting from a window. Police surrounded the building, and after an exchange of gunfire and a standoff lasting more than five hours the gunman surrendered.
Local police today identified the suspect as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear. News reports said he was from South Carolina.
It was unclear whether Planned Parenthood – a major women's health and family planning group – was the shooter's target.
Abortion is one of many services Planned Parenthood provides for women, and the association has become a lightning rod for criticism by US conservatives, among other reasons because it receives funding from the government for some health services.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers paid tribute to police for hauling in the gunman without further bloodshed.
The nine injured included five police. None of the nine were seriously wounded, he said.
"While this was a terrible, terrible tragedy, it could have been much worse if not for the reactions of first responders," Sutter told reporters.
The dead policeman was identified as Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus officer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who had raced to the scene of the shooting.
Officers were able to enter the building during the standoff and convince Dear to surrender, police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley told reporters.
Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said she did not believe the center had been specifically targeted.
Critics, many of whom seek to outlaw abortion in the United States, have falsely accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal organs and body parts for profit, and encouraging women to have abortions in order to expand such operations.
The national Planned Parenthood office praised "the brave law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm's way" in the incident.
"We are profoundly grateful for their heroism in helping to protect all women, men and young people as they access basic health care in this country," the statement read.
Local media said that extra police were sent to protect the three other Planned Parenthood clinics in the Denver area.
Several people were inside the clinic at the time of the shooting on what had been a regular work day.
When the gunman opened fire, terrified people fled the building and into the snow, some crying and pleading for help.
The immediate area around the clinic was placed on lockdown and people were told to stay indoors.
Quan Hoang, the owner of a nearby nail salon, told CNN that when he heard the gunfire he feared a robbery was under way at a bank in the shopping area, which would have been bustling with people looking for so-called Black Friday sales bargains the day after Thanksgiving.
"And we see cops, SWAT, the bomb squad, a whole bunch of people just trying to take cover around the Planned Parenthood area," he said by telephone.
"An officer came back in and said, 'Is everyone safe?' We asked him questions and he said they've barricaded him inside the Planned Parenthood and he was shooting out from the windows." – AFP, 28 November, 2015.