Around 6:20 p.m., President Obama gave remarks to the press on today’s horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. He said there are more American families “whose lives have been changed forever,” and another community stunned with grief. He then went on to say that he’s been to Roseburg, where there are “really good people there.” He went on to thank the first responders, and that in the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims and the dreams they had for their respective futures.
A visibly angry and frustrated president declared, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough.” It does not capture the heartache, or the anger, we fell over these senseless acts of violence. And it does not prevent this carnage from happening in the future. The president added that we don’t know the motive of the shooter, but it’s fair to say that this person had a “sickness in their minds.”
Yet, he also said that we’re not the only country with mental illness, but we are the only developed nation in the world where we have a mass shooting every few months.
“We’ve become numb to this,” Obama said.
He railed against what he feels are lax gun laws, saying that it cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm on other people to obtain firearms. The president also said that while we have become numb to these events, the reactions could also be anticipated. He challenged the logic of pro-Second Amendment groups by asking them if they truly believe that more guns makes us safer, adding that the press releases from these groups are already being distributed as he speaks.
The president did acknowledge that there are scores of responsible gun owners in this country who don’t believe that’s true. Polling shows that Americans, including gun owners; want to change the gun laws. Obama also said that states with the most gun laws have the fewer gun deaths.
He went on to say that we know nations that have had one mass shooting, and ended up crafting laws that have eliminated such horrific events; Obama used the United Kingdom and Australia as examples, calling them “countries like ours.”
Obama acknowledged that some in the media will say he shouldn’t politicize this tragedy, but added that gun control is “is something we should politicize.” He then made a plea to new organizations to compare the deaths of Americans from gun violence to that of terrorism in the coming days.
Congress was also the subject of Obama’s frustration saying that the current session explicitly blocks the collection of data that could lead to information that prevents more gun deaths. He also blamed the general public saying, “This is a political choice that we make. To allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”
Towards the end of the president’s remarks, he said when natural disasters strike, we work to make communities safer; we have seatbelt laws because we know they prevent automobile fatalities; and we fix roads to prevent other road deaths and make transportation easier. He was getting to the common sense element with these actions, but added that the notion that gun violence is somehow different–that our freedom and our Constitution prevents us from enacting laws that enhance gun safety–doesn’t make sense.
Obama admitted that this issue would require a change of politics, and that Americans who think gun violence is an epidemic should be thinking how to change the politics in Washington on this issue.
He made a call to gun owners to think about whether their opinions and views are being properly represented by the organizations who claim to speak for them on the national stage. Obama did not mention the National Rifle Association, but we all knew what he meant by this statement.
Before leaving, he said that he couldn’t do this on his own. He will need a cooperative Congress, governors, and state legislatures who are willing to work with him. He prayed–and hoped–that he wouldn’t have to come out here to express his condolences to the families of the victims of mass shootings–and give the same call to arms for more gun control–again during his presidency. But Obama admitted he couldn’t guarantee that.
Editor's note: You can read the president's full remarks here.