President Barack Obama has called for “a change of politics” on gun control, urging Americans to challenge the gun lobby after 10 people were reported killed in a shooting at a community college in southwestern Oregon.
“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Mr Obama said in an emotional televised address. “It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger we should feel, and it does not prevent this carnage from being inflicted somewhere else in America next week or a couple of months from now.”
The massacre comes just over three months since a white supremacist shot dead nine African Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr Obama delivered a powerful eulogy at a memorial service in the wake of the killings where he talked about the “unique mayhem” caused by gun violence.
Speaking on Thursday after the tragedy in Oregon, Mr Obama told the nation that the US was the only advanced country without commonsense gun control laws.
“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.
Trying to deflect criticism that he was politicising a tragedy, Mr Obama said the country needed to make the issue into a political one, and urged people to compare the number of those killed by guns to those killed by terrorism. More Americans have been killed in mass shootings than terrorism since the September 11 attacks of 2001.
“This is something we should politicise. It is relevant to our common life together, to our body politic,” Mr Obama said.
The US president earlier this year said that his biggest regret was not being able to force more change in relation to gun control. Previous shootings during his presidency have prompted debates in Washington over gun control, but he and his party have so far been unable to pass federal legislation on the issue.
“Each time this happens I’m going to bring this up,” Mr Obama said. “We can actually do something about it. We’re going to have to change our laws and this is not something I can do by myself.”
John Hanlin, the sheriff of Douglas county in Oregon, on Thursday evening said the shooting at Umpqua Community College had left 10 dead and 7 wounded with some in critical condition. Earlier he said police had responded to a morning call about a shooter on the campus, and that after law enforcement had “engaged” the alleged killer, he was “deceased”.
Earlier, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that while gun control was still a priority, Mr Obama was realistic about the political challenges in coming to a cross-party consensus.
“We’ve not yet seen that kind of strong bipartisan support across the country translate into legislative support in the United States Congress,” Mr Earnest said.
As news of the shooting broke, some presidential candidates expressed condolences, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Democrat, both describing the shooting as a “senseless tragedy”.
Umpqua Community College is located in Roseburg, about 180 miles south of Portland. Roughly 3,300 full-time students attend the school, and many of them are from the local community.
The worst mass shooting in recent US history occurred in 2007 at another college campus, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. A senior-year student there killed 32 people in two attacks.
The second worst shooting happened in December 2012 when 26 people, most of them children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The shooter, Adam Lanza, killed himself at the school.
This summer, nine people were killed at a historic black church in South Carolina. The alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, was taken into custody after a massive manhunt.
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