Umpqua Community College’s shooting reminded Americans they still faced gun violence in schools. This sample political essay explores Obama’s response to the massacre.
The Oregon Umpqua Community College massacre
On October 1st, 2015, Christopher Harper-Mercer fatally shot nine people and wounded nine others. He was shot and injured by two police officers following the incident, and then killed himself with his own weapon, bringing the total dead to ten. Pia Carusone, the executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, noted that the Umpqua school shooting is one of 45 United States school shootings thus far in 2015. Harper-Mercer was 26 years old, and the dead include his writing instructor Lawrence Levine and other classmates. Survivors recall the smile on Harper-Mercer’s face as he opened fire on a woman in a wheelchair and asked about students’ religious affiliations (Turkewitz).
President Obama’s reaction the Oregon massacre
During President Obama’s 15th address concerning gun violence during his eight-year administration, he said,
“Each time this happens, I’m going to say that we can actually do something about it. But we are going to have to change our laws” (as cited in Richinick).
The President noted that he could not pass these law changes on gun violence alone, but that the help of “congressional leaders, state legislators, and governors” is needed (Richinick). Obama further noted that his presence at the podium following a mass shooting like the one at Umpqua Community College:
“has become routine…the conversation and the aftermath of it, we’ve become numb to this” (Richinick).
Asking state residents to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with current gun laws to their elected officials, he also asked gun owners whether their views are actually those of the gun control (NRA), or whether they differ (Richinick). Obama said,
“We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses…we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months,” indicating that the United States has a more pronounced problem than other nations (Richinick).
Obama’s visit to the college
President Obama’s visit to Roseburg, Oregon, was marred by people protesting gun control, but also greeted by people who do support Obama’s gun violence law urgings (Wozniacka). Some 200 residents were angered by what they felt were Obama’s comments concerning the tragedy directed at gun control instead of the grieving families. In response or by design, Obama refrained from mentioning gun control during his visit, instead noting:
“Today, it’s about the families, their grief, and the love we feel for them.” (Freking).
Support for President Obama’s opinion
Although he avoided the subject of gun control in Roseburg, President Obama stated:
“[Gun violence of this magnitude] is not normal. It is not inevitable. It does not have to happen. There are ways to protect our children and protect our rights” (Freking).
Fox News reported that Obama would consider taking executive action in the battle for gun violence laws in the United States, and The Washington Post reported that this executive action might “compel background checks” for customers of dealers who exceed certain numbers of gun sales annually. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, stated:
“There are a lot of things that can be done that don’t undermine the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” indicating that executive action would take the opposition’s opinions into consideration.
Among the many supporters of further action on gun violence are the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence (EFEHV), and the Violence Policy Center (VPC) located in Washington, D.C. (The Virginia Center for Public Safety). Among the civilian-driven anti-gun violence organizations, Everytown for Gun Safety, Parents Against Gun Violence, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America all stand with President Obama on the need for more stringent gun control and gun violence prevention.
Detractors of President Obama’s opinion
The Pew Research Organization found that despite the high number of mass shootings in the United States, however, that gun owner’s rights have become Gun violence has become increasingly prevalent in the United States. A recent poll showed that protecting gun rights has outstripped the control of gun ownership by 7%, leading to less support for increased firearm control for the first time in the history of such polls (Kohut). Although what is driving this dramatic shift in public opinion is unclear, a likely culprit is the fear of Americans that gunmen like Christopher Harper-Mercer of Oregon and Adam Lanza of Newtown might strike in their communities.
Following Newtown, many people called for increased school security through posted, armed security guards and armed teachers (Murphy). Almost six in ten Americans, or 57% of them, “say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime” (Kohut).
Not surprisingly, Republicans support gun rights over controlling gun ownership 76% to 22%, while Democrats favor control of gun ownership over the American gun owner rights 69% to 28% (Kohut). This hotly debated topic continues to plague the United States as children, teachers, and innocent civilians continue to be killed at the hands of deranged young men. Both solutions might decrease the likelihood of more gun violence in the country, but legislation needs to be carefully considered
Heroes Among Us: Fighting gun violence
In an interesting and unexpected twist of events, the “trio of fearless Americans” who stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound high speed passenger train included Alek Skarlatos, who was a student at Umpqua Community College where the most recent shootings took place (Golgowski and Slattery). Other heroes have appeared during many of the recent school shootings, as well, including Chris Mintz, a student and Army veteran who “charged the shooter” at Umpqua Community College (Keneally). Mintz is credited with taking seven shots intended for other people, which he survived. A witness said that Mintz pulled alarms and told people to get out of the building, running back into the building where the shootings took place (Keneally). Mintz’ cousin launched a Go Fund Me page for him, which has raised over $750,000 toward his medical bills (Keneally). According to the Go Fund Me page, both of Mintz’ legs were broken during the shooting, which will result in physical therapy. A petition has been started to ask that President Obama award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Mintz is hoping for a call from the President himself (Kurson).
Current gun violence statistics in the U.S.
Gun violence has become increasingly prevalent in the United States over the past decade in places like schools and workplaces, although overall crime rates for other crimes have trended downward. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that of the 16,121 death reported in 2011, 11,208 of those were due to firearm homicides; that amounts to 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the United States (CDC). Suicide by firearm is also prevalent in the United States (CDC). Dewey Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Virginia, stated:
“There is no simple solution to the problem of mass shootings” and detailed some useful facts about these massacres (Cornell).
Even without United States Constitution, gun violence is not increasing, but has instead gone done down in the past two decades; school shootings are statistically rare and most shootings occur in homes and restaurants; gun violence is not always due to mental illness; gun laws and public health programs could help reduce gun violence; jail and prison sentences are not a good solution, as in many cases they may perpetuate gun violence (Cornell).
Based on Cornell’s research, and contributions from the United States public, there are ideas that will help control gun use in our country seem fair and reasonable. Preventative programs succeed often, but when they succeed, the public is unaware of the results; this contributes to the overall feeling of insecurity perpetuated by a media which reports more on violence than violence prevention (Cornell). Cornell recommended “widespread use of a threat assessment approach” designed to carefully investigate threats and provide distressed people with options and mental health services.
The Second Amendment and efforts to control gun violence
The Second Amendment of the problems of gun violence in America is often cited as a reason to decrease or prevent future rulings which would restrict United States’ citizens gun rights, access to guns, or use and carry guns in public places. It is the basis of the main stance of organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party on issues concerning gun control and gun violence laws and regulations. The Amendment states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (Smart Gun Laws).
In the case of District of Columbia c. Heller, the United States Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense”; this ruling does not affect or prevent gun regulation, however (Smart Gun Laws).
Initially, the portion of the Amendment referring to the right of a militia to bear arms “trumped” the portion concerning the individual right to bear arms, however a 1970’s reinvention of the NRA and a reinterpretation of the individual right to bear arms led to the 2008 landmark Heller case and the reorientation of gun rights in America (Toobin). Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the government could not ban handguns since “handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home” (Toobin). These recent rulings demonstrate the different interpretations of the Second Amendment and reveal the increase political agendas and ideas behind them (Toobin).
Understanding the connection between Oregon’s massacre and gun control efforts
Gun violence continues to be a problem in the United States, whether or not it is on a larger scale than twenty years ago. President Obama has continually spoken out concerning his views on increased gun regulation and the participation of the people in a nationwide campaign to prevent gun violence. The President’s time in the Oval Office is coming to an end, however, and it is highly unlikely that gun violence will be radically impacted before a new elected President is placed in the White House. This is not to say that President Obama has not succeeded in some ways with his anti-violence campaign, and Forbes reported that no less than 23 executive orders have been signed which “address the problems of gun violence in America” (Ungar).
These orders include making information about people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms available to the federal background check system, especially concerning mental health issues and asking the Attorney General and gun sellers to fully review gun buyers Ungar). Although Obama’s gun violence laws may not be popular with the Republican Party or the NRA, his concern for the welfare of the general public of the United States is clear through his statements and actions in recent days.
Carusone, Pia. “45 School Shootings in U.S. So Far in 2015.” MSNBC. NBC Universal, 2015. Web. 3 October 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “FastStats: Assault or Homicide.” CDC. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.
Cornell, Dewey G. “Gun Violence and Mass Shootings – myths, facts, and solutions.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 2014. Web. 11 June 2014.
Ford, Dana, and Ed Payne. “Oregon Shooting: Gunman Dead after College Rampage.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2015. Web. 2 October 2015.
Fox News. “Obama Reportedly Considering Executive Action on Gun Control.” Fox News. Fox News, 2015. 9 October 2015.
Freking, Kevin. “Obama says ‘It’s about the Families’ after Oregon Meeting.” Yahoo News. Yahoo News, 2015. Web. 10 October 2015.
Golgowski, Nina, and Denis Slattery. “Courageous U.S. Servicemen, College Student Overpower Gunman Aboard Train in Northern France – Thwarting Possible Terrorist Attack, Officials Say.” New York Daily News. NY Daily News, 2015. 24 August 2015.
Helsel, Phil, and Matthew Grimson. “Obama Meets with Victims of College Shooting in Oregon.” NBCNews. NBCNews, 2015. Web. 9 October 2015.
Keneally, Meghan. “’Hero’ Umpqua Community College Student Christ Mintz Speaks After Being Shot 7 Times.” ABC News. ABC News, 2015. 2 October 2015.
Kohut, Andrew. “Despite lower crime rates, support for gun rights increases.” Pew Research Organization. Pew Research Organization, 2015. 17 April 2015.
Kurson, Ken. “EXCLUSIVE: Obama to Phone Chris Mintz, Hero of Umpqua Mass Shooting.” Observer. Observer, 2015. 6 October 2015.
Murphy, Kate. “’F’ is for Firearm: More Teachers Authorized to Carry Weapons in Classroom.” NBC News. NBC News, 2015. 22 September 2014.
Richinick, Michele. “Again, the President Addresses Nation after Mass Shooting.” Newsweek. Newsweek LLC, 2015. Web. 1 October 2015.
Smart Gun Laws. “The Second Amendment.” Smart Gun Laws. Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 2015. Web. N.d.
The Virginia Center for Public Safety. “The NRA’s ‘Anti-gun Organizations’.” The Virginia Center for Public Safety: Independence from Gun Violence. VACPS, 2015. Web. 10 October 2015.
Toobin, Jeffrey. “So You Think You Know the Second Amendment?” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. 17 December 2012.
Turkewitz, Julie. “Oregon College Student Says Gunman Smiled, then Fired.” New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2015. Web. 9 October 2015.
Unger, Rick. “Here Are the 23 Executive Orders on Gun Safety Signed Today by the President.” Forbes. Forbes, Inc. Web. 16 January 2013.
Wozniacka, Gosia. “Strong Emotions as Obama Visits Grieving Oregon Town.” ABC News. ABC News, 2015. Web. 9 October 2015.
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