A Routine Tragedy: School Shootings in the US

Louis Hunter, Politics Editor, writes on the response to the shooting at Umpqua Community College


On the 1st October, Chris Harper-Mercer walked into Umpqua Community College where he proceeded to fatally shoot nine of his peers, and injure nine more. It would be the 45th school shooting in the US this year, and President Obama made his 15th statement over mass shootings. The president spoke forlornly when he said: ‘As I said just a few months ago and I said a few months before that and each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some in America, next week or a couple of months from now.’

‘Somehow this has become routine,’ the president said. Since his re-election in November 2012, there have been 993 mass shooting events and almost 300 of them have occurred in 2015. Clearly it has become a chronic problem for the US, one which it seems unlikely to shake given fierce opposition to firearm restrictions. Obama seemed to vent his frustration following this latest tragedy, citing his failure to pass gun control measures on an obstinate Congress. The president, calling for news organisations to compare the number of Americans killed by terrorism over the past decade to the number who died in gun violence, said: ‘Yet we have a congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how to reduce potential gun deaths. How can that be?’

‘Right now I can imagine the press releases being cranked out. We need more guns, they’ll say. Fewer safety laws. Does anybody really believe that?’ Obama appealed to voters and to gun owners to ask themselves whether organisations such as the National Rifle Association, which pours huge amounts of money into lobbying against restrictions, are really serving the interests of those who use weapons for sport and hunting. He expressed frustration when comparing the situation in the US to other countries such as Britain and Australia, where legislation has been passed that largely prevents such tragedies.

Guns can be carried openly in Oregon. The police in Portland sometimes receive calls from alarmed citizens who spot a person with a semiautomatic weapon walking through the city only to be informed that its legal. County sheriff John Hanlin, who was at the scene of the killings, wrote to vice-president Joe Biden in 2013, saying he would not enforce ‘unconstitutional’ laws to restrict ownership.

‘Gun control is not to the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings. And actions against, or in disregard for our US Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people,’ he wrote.

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and prominent advocate of the Everytown for Gun Safety group, said that ‘America is the only developed country where when someone asks if you heard about that campus shooting, you have to clarify: “Which one?”’