WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Thursday after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon left 13 dead and at least 20 others injured.
The president’s speech began like every other speech made after a tragedy. He thanked first responders who saved lives, and said we would keep the victims and those trying to recover in our prayers.
“In the coming days we’ll learn about the victims: young men and women who were studying, and learning, and working hard, their eyes set on the future,” Obama said.
He even personalized it because he’s been to the small town of just 22,000, and he said good people live there.
But then his tone changed.
“As I said, just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that…our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week or in a couple months from now.”
He admitted that we don’t know why the 20-year-old man decided to kill so many, but that it’s “fair to say anyone who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.”
That’s when the speech became political, with statistics and overtures about the need for gun safety laws.
And while he knew it would impact his polling numbers, the president admitted what he knew people would claim. “This is something we should politicize, he said.”
While America is far from the only country that has citizens who have mental illnesses, “We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kind of mass shootings every couple of months,” and we do nothing about it.
While other countries have instituted strict gun laws in light of mass shootings, President Obama said we don’t despite repeated mass shootings, that we’re numb to it.
“What’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any common sense gun legislation.”
The president said that there are enough guns in the United States for every man, woman and child to have one, and he asked how one could make the argument that more guns would make us safer.
“I’m sure the press release is being written up now: “‘We need more guns,’ they’ll argue. ‘Fewer gun safety laws.’ Does anybody really believe that?” he asked.
He said that states with more gun laws have the fewest gun deaths, “so the notion that ‘gun laws don’t work,’ or ‘just make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns’–it’s not born out by the evidence.”
He said we know there are ways to prevent these types of events based on England and Australia, both of which changed laws and nearly eliminated gun violence.
We spend more than $1 trillion, pass tons of laws and dedicate agencies solely to preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the president argued, and he conceded that that is appropriate. “And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun violence. How can that be?” he asked Americans.
“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.”
He then said when Americans are killed from mine disasters, floods, earthquakes or dangerous roads, we change laws to make it safer. But he said we somehow see gun control differently.
“Each time this happens I’m going to bring this up,” he said about the politics of gun control and our country’s inaction on it.
He ended his speech doing what he said wasn’t enough: telling Americans to pray for those who lost loved ones on Thursday, and again reiterating that mass shootings shouldn’t happen:
“I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say.”