Washington (AFP) – United States President Barack Obama voiced his anger and sadness after the country’s latest deadly shooting, this time at an Oregon community college, and made another impassioned plea for gun control legislation.
“There has been another mass shooting in America,” a stony-faced Obama said in reaction to the shooting by a male gunman at Umpqua Community College in rural Roseburg, which left 10 people dead.
“Somehow this has become routine,” said the president. “We become numb to this.”
“The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine,” said the president, making his 15th statement on a mass shooting since taking office in 2009.
“And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common sense gun legislation.”
Obama reiterated his frustration at the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to back new gun control measures, and threw down the gauntlet to lawmakers.
“Prayers are not enough,” he said. “We can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.”
“This is a political choice we make,” Obama said. “This is not something I can do myself. I have to have a Congress and state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.”
“It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”
– ‘It doesn’t make sense’ –
School shootings have become a disturbing reality of American life and many facilities have reinforced security in recent years, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
When 26 people — among them 20 young children — were killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in one of the worst-ever school massacres, many thought it would mark a turning point in the US debate on gun control.
As America reeled in shock, Obama tasked his Vice President Joe Biden to push for movement on the issue in Congress.
But within just four months, hopes for a meaningful reform were dashed, after senators rejected a law that would have made criminal and mental health background checks compulsory for gun purchases online and at gun fairs — a major political setback for the president.
A furious Obama called it a “shameful day for Washington,” placing the blame squarely on the powerful US gun lobby.
Obama also called the US media to account, asking them to set the human cost of gun violence side by side with the — far lower — number of people killed in terrorist attacks.
The United States has the highest number of firearms per capita of the developed world, with close to 89 guns in circulation per 100 people — without counting police and military weaponry.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an average of 32,000 people died annually from firearms from 2009 to 2013, including about 20,000 suicides per year.
Beyond the political class, the president appealed directly to the public — voicing hope that perhaps this shooting could be the one that provokes a shift in mindset.
“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we work to make communities safer,” Obama said.
“When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities, we have seat belt laws because we know it saves lives.”
“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… It doesn’t make sense.”
“So tonight,” Obama said, “I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws.
“And to save lives. And to let young people grow up.”