Angry Obama demands gun control

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the shootings in Oregon from the White House in Washington on Friday, October 1, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the shootings in Oregon from the White House in Washington on Friday, October 1, 2015.   | Photo Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE

U.S. President Barack Obama has channelled a disgust with his own country’s unique propensity for gun violence in a direct call to the American people to finally push for gun control laws, following a mass shooting at a school in Oregon.

In what was one of the most powerful speeches of his administration — and the 15th following a shooting — the U.S. President made an openly political call for voters to do what politicians and the American gun lobby have not: pressure legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people like the 20-year-old man who killed at least 10 people on Thursday inside Umpqua community college in Oregon.

“We are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people,” he said at the White House, as details of the shooting in the town of Roseburg remained unclear. “We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.” Mr. Obama praised the U.K. and Australia — “countries like ours” — in having come up with “ways to prevent” mass shootings.

“Somehow this has become routine,” he said, before speaking a cold truth: “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America. I hope and pray that I am not going to have come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences in these circumstances. But, based on my tenure as President, I can’t guarantee that — and that’s terrible to say. And it can change.”

Mr. Obama was as visibly frustrated as his remarks in the hours following shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; in Charleston, South Carolina; in so many other places in the past several years. “My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath even ends up being routine. We become numb to this. Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said.

“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.

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in foods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto facilities; we have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.

“So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our constitution prohibit any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon doesn’t make sense.”

The last serious effort to pass gun control legislation in the U.S. was the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment in 2013, following the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting in which 20 children died and Mr. Obama gave a powerful response from behind the same White House podium.

The Senate proposal, jointly offered by conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, would have expanded federal background checks to close the so-called gun show loophole.

Currently, under federal law, background checks are only required for gun purchases from a federally licensed dealer and not private sales at a gun show or on the internet. The 2013 legislation would have made such transactions subject to background checks to ensure that buyers did not have criminal records or mental illness. The proposal received only 54 votes in the Senate and failed to clear a 60-vote supermajority needed to advance.

In contrast to Mr. Obama’s call to double down on gun control legislation, the Gun Owners of America, a conservative alternative to the National Rifle Association, cast the blame in a Facebook post on Umpqua community college for being a gun-free zone.

Mr. Obama also called on gun owners “to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organisation that suggests it’s speaking for you”. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

Watch: The American epidemic of gun violence

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 8:25:34 AM |

Next Story