A visibly frustrated and angry US President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House after another mass shooting during his presidency, pleaded for changes in the country’s gun laws and urged Americans to vote elected officials out of office who oppose new gun restrictions.
“This is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together,” Obama said, speaking hours after the shooting at an Oregon community college that reportedly left at least 10 people dead and several others injured. “This is a political choice we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.”
The shooter, identified as a 26-year-old male named Chris Harper Mercer, opened fire earlier in the day at Umpqua Community College. Police said the shooter was among those who died.
For Obama, reacting to a shooting has become an all-too-common occurrence. Thursday’s 13-minute statement constituted the 15th time during his presidency that he has responded to a mass shooting, according to CBS’s Mark Knoller.
According to The Washington Post, meanwhile, a full calendar week has yet to pass without a mass-shooting incident during Obama’s second term in office. According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, Thursday’s shooting in Oregon was the 142nd school-shooting incident since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The last time he made a statement from the White House – on the shooting that left nine dead at a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina – he lamented that he has had to “make statements like this too many times.”
This time, he used language that went even further. He stood dismayed at the numbness of the “routine” that has developed in the aftermath of shootings, saying the “thoughts and prayers” commonly offered are “not enough.”
“The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium is routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it – we’ve become numb to this,” Obama said.
He lashed out at Congress, which he blasted for doing nothing to stop the scourge of gun violence that continues to plague the US. He mocked what he imagined as press releases being drafted by certain members of Congress that call for “more guns” to solve the problem.
“How can you, with a straight face,” Obama said, “argue that more guns will make us safer?”
And he asked voters to step up – to vote out of office members of Congress who refuse to support popular measures to curb gun violence, such as an expansion of federal background checks on gun buyers.
“Each time this happens, I’m going to bring this up. I am going to say that we can actually do something about it,” he said in closing his remarks.
He added: “I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experiences as president, I can’t guarantee that, and that is a terrible thing.”