Obama on Oregon Shooting: 'This Is Something We Should Politicize'
A visibly irritated President Obama appeared in the White House briefing room this evening to declare after a gunman killed 10 at a community college in Oregon that "it cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun."
The 26-year-old male shooter, now identified as Chris Harper Mercer, reportedly brought four guns onto the scene, including three handguns.
He discussed his plans in a chat room the evening before, where some advised him not to go through with it but many egged him on. He called it the "beta uprising" -- going after guys he thought acted "alpha" superior to him and girls who turned him down. Some trying to discourage him said he'd "make us white people look bad" or make it "harder for us gun owners."
The News-Review in Roseburg, Ore., citing a student whose teacher was shot in the head, said "the shooter was asking people to stand up and state their religion and then started firing away." A person on Twitter who said her grandmother was in a room with the shooter said victims were asked if they were Christian: "If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn't answer, they were shot in the legs."
"As I said just a few months ago and a few months before that, and I've said each time we've seen one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough," Obama said, adding that words do "nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America next week or a couple of months from now."
"We don't know yet why this individual did what he did and it's fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months," he said.
"...Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it; we've become numb to this. "
Obama added that "what's become routine of course is the response of those who oppose any kind of common sense gun legislation."
"Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out. 'We need more guns,' they'll argue. 'Fewer gun safety laws!' Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country; they know that's not true. We know because of the polling, that says a majority of Americans think we should be changing these laws, including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners," he continued.
"There is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, argue that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence. We know that other countries in response to one mass shooting have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours. Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it."
The president went on to lament that "what's also routine is somebody, somewhere will comment and say, 'Obama politicized this issue.' Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic."
Obama asked news organizations to list side-by-side tallies of the number of Americans killed by terrorism and the number killed by domestic gun violence.
"And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?" he said.
"This is a political choice that we make -- to allow this to happen every few months in America. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When American are killed in floods and hurricanes we work to make communities safer... the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon?"
Obama said the American people should think of "how we get our government to change these laws."
"When you decide to vote for somebody," he advised, make a "determination on whether this continuing cause of death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision."
"I would particularly ask America's gun owners... think about whether your views are being represented by the organization that suggests it's speaking for you," Obama added in a jab at the National Rifle Association.
"And each time this happens I'm gonna bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we're gonna have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself," he concluded. "I hope and pray that I don't have to come out again during my tenure as president... but based on my experience as president I can't guarantee that. And that's terrible to say."
This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. EST with the identity of the shooter.